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Dominican Newcomer Feliz Leads Illini To Exhibition Basketball Win

llini point guard Andres Feliz.

Illini point guard Andres Feliz takes a ball screen from Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15). Rob McColley/Illinois Public Media

The new-look Illini men beat Illinois Wesleyan 83-67 Friday night at the State Farm Center in Champaign, in the pre-season's only exhibition basketball game.

It looked like a blowout as the home team built a 24-point lead. But late in the second half,  Wesleyan scored 11 straight to make it a contest. 

Illini coach Brad Underwood explained the defensive lapse in his postgame remarks.

“Not to discredit anything they did,” said Underwood. “Most of them are philosophical breakdowns. We just dumped out of the strong side corner, which we never do. It wasn’t just one guy, it was quite a few of them. We’ve got to get some of these freshmen thinking more of the defensive end. It’s the toughness to be disciplined enough to execute.”

Junior-college transfer Andres Feliz led the Illini with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, and drew five fouls while committing none. 

Feliz was one of seven newcomers to play his first game in an Illini uniform. The others are starters Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili; freshmen Samba Kane, Tevian Jones and Alan Griffin; and walk-on Zach Griffith.

Trent Frazier added 19 points and five assists, while joining Feliz in the five drawn/zero committed fouls statistic.  

Dosunmu added 13 points for the Illini. Bezhanishvil and Aaron Jordan each chipped in nine. Jordan grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.

It was a messy game. The Illini committed 17 turnovers, and forced 29 from the Titans. Feliz said his team will work to clean it up.

“There was a lot of turnovers for our side,” said Feliz. “I think we have to keep improving and working on that, take more care of the ball. Our defense creates turnovers. So we have to make the other team turn the ball over. But we can’t turn the ball over. So we have to keep working throughout the year.”

Charlie Bair led the Titans with 16 points, including 4-of-5 three-pointers. Brady Rose added 14 points for Wesleyan.

The regular season begins Thursday, when the Illini host Evansville. That game tips at 7 pm at the State Farm Center.