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Illini Loses Opener To North Florida 93-81 In Men’s Basketball

Illini Malcolm Hill guards North Florida's Dallas Moore

Illini Malcolm Hill guards North Florida's Dallas Moore, in the Ospreys' 93-81 win over Illinois Friday night in Springfield. Rob McColley/Illinois Public Media

The much-wounded Illini men's basketball team lost another player, and its first season opener in 16 years, with North Florida’s 93-81 defeat of Illinois, Friday night in Springfield.

The North Florida Ospreys tied a school record by connecting on 17 three-point shots, good for 52% from deep and overall.

Beau Beech hit 7-of-8 from the arc for the Ospreys, while Dallas Moore used a combination of outside shooting and dribble-penetration to rack up a game-high 26 points. Moore also dished 10 assists without committing a turnover.

Illini coach John Groce was impressed.

"The first thing I want to do is give them tremendous credit,” said Groce. “We did not beat ourselves tonight. They won the game. They beat us. And I want to make that very, very clear."

Mike Thorne led Illinois with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Malcolm Hill also tallied a double-double for the Illini, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Illini began the game with three injured players in street clothes, Leron Black, Tracy Abrams and Kendrick Nunn. Late in the first half, starting point guard Jaylon Tate dislocated a joint in his hand, an injury that required stitches to close the open wound.

Tate returned to Champaign for further medical evaluation and treatment. The rest of the Illini team will remain in Springfield in preparation for Sunday afternoon's game against North Dakota State. The Bison, like the Ospreys, qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

Asked why he gave himself such a challenging schedule to start the year, Groce said, "I'm not gonna sit here and tell ya that I thought Abrams, Black, Nunn and Jaylon Tate would play half the game. I'd be lying if I said that to you."

Sunday's game will be the third of five home-away-from-home games in Springfield, while State Farm Center renovations continue.