The Illinois Fighting Illini officially started their 2013-2014 campaign on Thursday night with an exhibition scrimmage against the McKendree Bearcats. The Illini were able to roll past the Bearcats with an 101-66 victory.
Just as head coach John Groce said at the postgame press conference (seen below), the Fighting Illini played much better than they did in the Orange & Blue Scrimmage last Thursday.
The only major hiccup for the Fighting Illini came at the beginning of the game when McKendree jumped out to a 14-4 lead. However, coach Groce avoided calling the timeout in order to give his guys experience with playing out of a deficit.
Besides the slow start, Illinois looked really good for their first game of the season.
Junior guard Tracy Abrams led the offense for the Illini. He had a team-high 16 points and went 5-of-10 from the field while hitting all six of his free throws.
Illinois also had three other players reach double-digits in the game (all new Illini players).
Rayvonte Rice and Jaylon Tate both finished with 13 points each, and Jon Ekey had 12 points of his own.
Senior Joseph Bertrand contributed in the Illini’s winning effort as well by leading the team in rebounding for the game with eight total. Illinois was able to outrebound the Bearcats 46-29 in the game.
For the first actual game of the year, it was very nice to see the new Illini arrivals come out and have solid performances.
Ekey and Rice were able to contribute after transferring from Illinois State and Drake respectively. Rice was able to hit 50% of his shots in the game and hit 5-of-8 free throws. Ekey hit 5-of-7 shots in the game and was able to record six rebounds on top of his 13 points.
For the freshman, Tate stole the show. The freshman guard from Simeon High School played at a high level on Thursday. He hit all three of his shots and only missed two free throws (went 6-of-8). He finished with 13 points, three assists, and one steal.
The only big negative from Thursday night’s scrimmage was the slow start for Illinois. Yes, they were able to play out of their 14-4 deficit, but things will not be that easy one the regular season begins.
The Illini will play tough teams such as: Valpo, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Oregon, Missouri, and the entire Big Ten conference.
Overcoming a slow start against McKendree might have been “no problem,” but the same will not be the same during the season.
Illinois’ next game will be another exhibition scrimmage against the Northwood Timberwolves on November 3rd at the State Farm Center.
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