Hill, Black carry Illini past Valpo 82-57 in NIT opener
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Malcolm Hill scored 25 points, Leron Black had a double-double and Jamall Walker picked up a win in his debut as the interim coach for Illinois, an 82-57 romp over short-handled Valparaiso in an opening game of the NIT on Tuesday night.
Hill made 7 of 12 shots, including four 3-pointers, and 7 of 8 free throws and became the fourth player to surpass 1,800 points for the Illini (19-14), who are seeded second in their bracket and are home against the Boise State next. Black had 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Walker served as an assistant to head coach John Groce for five seasons until Groce was fired on Saturday.
Tevonn Walker had 25 points for Valparaiso (24-9), which reached last year’s NIT title game. The Crusaders were without Horizon League player of the year Alec Peters, the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, who started all 134 games of his career before an injury sidelined him prior to the last regular season game.
Hill and Black combined for 24 points and the Illini shot 53 percent, including 5 of 10 behind the arc, to lead 41-24 at the half. Valpo pulled within 15 early in the second half, but got no closer.