News Local/State

Illinois Defeats Washington U. In Exhibition Men’s Basketball

Tracy Abrams looks for fellow Illini Maverick Morgan during Sunday's exhibiton game against Washington Uiversity.

Illini Guard Tracy Abrams (#13) looks for Maverick Morgan (#22) during Illinois' exhibition victory over Washington University. Rob McColley / Illinois Public Media

The Illini men's basketball team defeated visiting Washington University of Saint Louis 82-75 in in an exhibition game Sunday afternoon at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

But victory came only after Illinois squandered a 29-point lead in the second half. 

Forward Michael Finke says his team took its foot off the gas.

 “I think especially in the end, we just let up,” said Finke. “Coach said we need more of that junkyard dog mentality. And we didn’t have that today. When we’re up 29 with eleven minutes left, we gotta keep pushing.

Finke scored 13 points as the starting power forward. Maverick Morgan started at Center and scored a game-high 20 points. Sixth-year Center Mike Thorne Jr. totaled 18 minutes of floor time before fouling out. Illinois featured a variety of double-post sets, including a high-low offense.

But the Division III Bears out-rebounded the hosts 38-36, despite a significant height disadvantage. 

Guard play was sloppy on both sides.  Wash U's assist-to-turnover ratio was even worse than Illinois'. The Illini assisted 15 times on 27 made field goals. The Bears made 29 field goals but assisted on only 13. Illinois turned the ball over 20 times and the Bears 27.

Illini coach John Groce wasn't pleased with the performance, but he remained philosophical about it, calling it “a circumstance where we can learn, obviously.” 

“We played a lot of different guys, a lot of combinations of guys, which I thought was good”, said Groce of Illinois’ performance in the game. “We’ll get a chance to watch the film and evaluate that, see what it looks like, and go from there.”

Kevin Kucera led the Bears with 20 points and 7 assists. Andrew Sanders added 13 points and 6 rebounds for the Bears.

Illini guard Tracy Abrams played his first game since March of 2014.. He finished with four assists, three steals and no turnovers in 23 minutes. Jaylon Tate led Illinois with 5 assists. Freshman Te'Jon Lucas had only a single assist against three turnovers, mostly because Illini big men couldn't field his quicker passes.

The Illini play their second and final exhibition game against visiting Lewis University on Friday, November 7th at 7 PM.  Illinois opens its regular season with a home game against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, November 11th, at 8 PM.