Illinois Basketball: Fighting Illini Score 101 Points in Exhibition Opener

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2013

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 22:  Head coach John Groce of the Illinois Fighting Illini talks to Tracy Abrams #13 during the game against the Colorado Buffaloes during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at The Frank Erwin Center on March 22, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

One week after matching up against each other in the Orange and Blue Scrimmage, the 2013-14 version of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball faced their first test, albeit in an exhibition game. The Fighting Illini defeated McKendree 101-66, as four Illini scored in double figures.

Illinois led 47-39 at halftime but trailed by 11 points early on in the contest. The second half was much more encouraging, as the Illini doubled up the Bearcats 54-27. All 11 Illinois players scored during the contest, while everyone ranged from three to 16 points.

Illinois shot an impressive 55 percent from the field and were able to reach the charity stripe on 38 occasions, though only converting on 68 percent of their free-throw tosses. They also struggled on long-range shots, making only three of 18 three-pointers.

Still, the Illini were plus-17 in the rebounding column and only committed eight turnovers over 40 minutes. Exhibition games like these are particularly beneficial to teams like Illinois, who have five freshmen, two transfers and one walk-on on their 11-man active roster. Here is a look at how each player performed on Thursday evening:

Nnanna Egwu85133-of-52-of-2 
Jon Ekey126 25-of-71-of-21-of-3
Joseph Bertrand88123-of-62-of-4 
Rayvonte Rice132124-of-85-of-80-of-1
Tracy Abrams163315-of-106-of-6o-of-3
Maverick Morgan65 33-of-4  
Austin Colbert832 4-of-60-of-10-of-1
Malcolm Hill83233-of-72-of-30-of-2
Kendrick Nunn64212-of-61-of-21-of-5
Jaylon Tate13 313-of-36-of-81-of-1
Mike LaTulip32 21-of-31-of-20-of-2

Abrams appeared to hurt his ankle early in the contest, though. He ended up returning to the game and leading the team in scoring. His backup, Tate, actually led the Illini in minutes played at 25. Not shown in this box score is the fact that both Bertrand and Morgan blocked three shots apiece.

Of Nunn's six shots, five came from deep. Nunn's lone two-point attempt came on a fast break, when the lefty threw down the hammer on a dunk. Bertrand also led the team on the glass, pulling in eight boards. Ekey had a well-rounded effort and is a lock to start at power forward according to John Groce.

While scoring 101 points on Division II McKendree isn't a tremendous accomplishment, it should serve as a sign that Groce wants the Illini to get up the court and run this season. The Illini next step on the court on Sunday Nov. 3, when they take on Northwood (Mich.) in their final exhibition matchup, before opening the regular season on Nov. 8 at home against Alabama State.