By all accounts, Illinois’s first exhibition game did not go great. The Illini managed an 82-75 win on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t easy — and it came against Division III Washington University. That is not the most impressive way to begin your season, exhibition or not. This evening Illinois gets a chance to show fans something a little better as they take on Lewis University at 7 pm.
Of course, many things were irregular for the Illini in the first exhibition game, beginning with the starting lineup. John Groce trotted out a starting five of Tracy Abrams, Aaron Jordan, Malcolm Hill, Michael Finke, and Maverick Morgan. I’m not the coach, I haven’t seen every practice, but I’d be willing to bet this is not the first-choice starting five. When everyone is fully healthy (i.e., Jalen Coleman-Lands) or not suspended (i.e., Leron Black), at least 60% of that could (should?) be different.
What to watch for this evening, however, is still not who starts, but what the results are. Ideally, Illinois owns this game wire-to-wire. A show of strength, even this early in the year, could be a big confidence boost.
Tracy Abrams will be making his second appearance since injury and surely could use a little more confidence, but watch out for young Te’Jon Lucas behind him, who is already gaining praise for his practice efforts (10 assists in a recent practice). Likewise, the big men on the interior for Illinois are in need of a little confidence as well. A common refrain from the Wash U exhibition was a lack of finishing in the post area. In tonight’s exhibition, points won’t be the only thing that matters, but if Mike Thorne and Maverick Morgan can rack up a few by converting the shots they get down low, that will be a big bonus.
This game is another one that has no television except for a subscription-based web stream. So, unless you’ve ponied up for a subpar streaming experience, your best bet is to get to State Farm Center to see this one. Tickets are available here.