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The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: March 6, 2024

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Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what's going on around the area:

Three reasons we love sports today

➜ 1. OK, no Big Ten title this season for Illinois men's basketball. But even after the Illini's 77-71 loss against Purdue on Tuesday night, the season is far from finished. Plus, it was an entertaining, competitive game from start to finish. Even if it didn't end with Illinois securing a win.

➜ Round of applause to Illinois women's basketball beat writer Joe Vozzelli and managing editor Niko Dugan for helping pull off the six-page Big Ten women's basketball tournament special section inside this edition of The News-Gazette. Well done.

➜ 3. The IHSA boys' basketball state tournament begins Thursday and continues through Saturday at State Farm Center in Champaign. Head out to a game. Or 12.

Numbers game: 1,023

Points in just two seasons for Parkland sophomore forward Alyssa Cole. The 5-foot-9 forward from Nashville has accomplished that total in 55 games with the Cobras, translating to an average of 18.6 points for her college career. A career that continues Wednesday night when the ninth-ranked Cobras (24-4) begin NJCAA Division II postseason play by hosting Spoon River at 5:30 p.m. in a Central District Championship quarterfinal game at the Donald C. Dodds Jr. Athletic Complex.

Crowd control

Three events I'm paying attention to

➜ 1. Ohio State at Illinois men's tennis. It won't count in the Big Ten standings, but the Illini have a chance to beat the undefeated and top-ranked Buckeyes in front of their home fans. First serve is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Atkins Tennis Center.

➜ 2. Lewis & Clark at Parkland men's college basketball. The ninth-ranked Cobras (25-4) open NJCAA Division II postseason play with a Central District Championship quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Champaign.

➜ 3. Hope Academy vs. Mounds Meridian boys' basketball. The Class 1A state semifinal game tips at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the first of 16 IHSA state tournament games at State Farm Center in Champaign.

Coach's corner

Three questions with Illinois men's tennis assistant coach Tim Kopinski. The former All-Big Ten player during his Illini career is in his second season on coach Brad Dancer's staff. Illinois, ranked 11th in the country, hosts No. 1 Ohio State at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Atkins Tennis Center:

➜ 1. My favorite sports teams is ... all Illinois teams.

➜ 2. Three coaches I'd like to have dinner with are ... Jurgen Klopp, Phil Jackson and Joel Quenneville.

➜ 3. My biggest pet peeve is ... people being late consistently.