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Illinois' Henson Will Step Down at End of Season

February 25, 1996|From Staff and Wire Reports

Illinois Coach Lou Henson announced that this season would be his last after the Illini beat No. 18 Iowa, 91-86, Saturday at Champaign, Ill.

Henson made his announcement first to his players in the locker room after the game, then to the fans in a radio interview piped through a public address system.

Henson said he had wanted to stay on for another season, but decided to retire at the end of this season amid continuous speculation about the Illinois coaching position.

"I did what was best for the university, rather than what I want personally," he said. "It was hurting our recruiting."

Henson said didn't want his retirement to serve as a motivating force for the Illini, which at 17-9 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten is still in contention for an NCAA tournament berth.

"I want them to go out and play for themselves, for the institution, and just do the best they can," Henson said.

Illinois senior guard Richard Keene doesn't see it that way.

"He caught us by surprise," said Keene, who had a career-high 25 points and six of Illinois' school-record 14 three-point baskets in the victory over Iowa (19-7, 8-6). "We've got more to play for now. There's going to be a lot of emotion and we've got to feed off of that."

Henson has a record of 422-220 at Illinois and a career mark of 661-327. He ranks 16th all-time among NCAA Division I coaches in victories and is one of 10 coaches to take two different schools to the Final Four--New Mexico State in 1970 and Illinois in 1989.

Henson said his favored replacement would be Jimmy Collins, a standout guard at New Mexico State under Henson and an assistant at Illinois since 1983.

Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther said he planned to make a decision on Henson's replacement within "a month or two," but would not indicate whether Collins had the inside track to the job.

No. 2 Kentucky 94, Florida 63--The Wildcats, No. 1 at the start of the season, figure to reclaim that position after convincingly stretching what is now the nation's longest active winning streak to 23 games on the same day that top-ranked Massachusetts lost to George Washington.

Kentucky (24-1, 14-0) won in typical fashion over Florida (10-14, 5-9) in the Southeastern Conference game at Gainesville, Fla.--taking command early and using balanced scoring to record its 22nd double-digit victory margin.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 25-12 lead and didn't allow the Gators to get any closer. Forward Antoine Walker had 20 points to lead six double-figure scorers.

Kentucky has an average victory margin of 22.8, with Indiana and Georgia being the only teams to lose by less than 10 points to the Wildcats since their 92-82 loss to Massachusetts in the second game of the season.

Florida center Dametri Hill had another strong game against Kentucky with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds in the Gators' 14-point loss on Feb. 3.

No. 5 Kansas 77, Kansas State 66--The Jayhawks (23-2, 11-1) won the Big Eight regular-season championship for the fifth time in the last six years with their 13th victory in a row at Manhattan, Kan.

Guard Jacque Vaughn scored 20 points and made four of five three-point shots.

Kansas State (15-9, 6-6) missed its first nine shots and never got closer than two points to Kansas after Vaughn made a three-point shot with 10:59 left in the first half.

No. 8 Utah 74, Air Force 50--Forward Keith Van Horn scored 23 points and eight rebounds for the visiting Utes (22-5, 14-3), who clinched at least a tie for the Western Athletic Conference championship.

Utah opened the second half with an 18-2 run to put away last-place Air Force (5-20, 1-15).

No. 9 Texas Tech 75, Texas 58--The Red Raiders (24-1, 13-0) clinched their first outright Southwest Conference regular-season championship since 1975 by winning at Austin, Texas, for the first time in eight years.

Center Tony Battie had 22 points and nine rebounds for Texas Tech, which extended several school records--most wins in a season, consecutive victories (17) and consecutive road victories (11).

Texas (17-7, 10-3), the SWC's worst-shooting team at 41%, was well under that for the game (36%) and made two of 26 three-point shots. Guard Reggie Freeman, the SWC's leading scorer at 22.7 points a game, was 7-for-24 shooting and had 16 points.

Virginia 67, No. 10 Wake Forest 49--Senior center Chris Alexander, playing his last home game, played superb defense against Tim Duncan and the Cavaliers (12-13, 6-8) shot 60% in the Atlantic Coast Conference game at Charlottesville, Va.

Duncan made only six of 20 shots and finished with 15 points. Also frustrating for the Demon Deacons (18-5, 10-4) was the fact they couldn't take advantage of a 25-1 edge in offensive rebounds.

Guard Harold Deane made five of seven three-point shots and had 18 points.

No. 11 Georgetown 67, No. 20 Boston College 64--The Hoyas (23-5, 12-4) held the Eagles (16-8, 9-7) to two field goals in the final 8:15 of the Big East game at Landover, Md.

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