On Friday night, Illinois finished off their preseason in an exhibition game against Quincy. Because of a closed door scrimmage between Illinois and Dayton, Quincy would serve as their only game before the start of the season. The final tuneup for the regular season would allow them to get rid of some defensive wrinkles and shake off the rust. It would also allow for much needed practice on new rims and in an arena that they only got into a few days ago. A recent water leak in the State Farm Center pushed back the start of practice by a few days, not allowing them much time to practice on their home floor.
Illinois started off very slow with Quincy making the first basket, on an "and 1" that gave them a quick 3-0 lead. Illinois in the mean time missed their first 4 shots before Hill opened up scoring with a couple of free throws. After that, Illinois seemed to settle down and used numerous rebounds and quick outlet passes to go on a 17-0 run. It is clear that this team is on a mission to play at a much faster speed than in previous years. Groce is constantly yelling for players to hit their outlet passes quickly and move the ball up the floor In the first half it the fast pace helped Illinois get a number of easy baskets. It will be interesting to see if they can keep that kind of pace against better teams. At the end of the first half Illinos led 37-20.
In the first half the scoring was distributed well between the starters and the bench. The starters accounted for 27 of the first 37 points of the game. HIl led all players with 14 points in the first half and looked like he will be very hard to stop. He went 5-7 from FG , 2-3 from the three point line and 2-2 from the charity stripe.. Illinois bench pitched in nicely with 10 points, six of which came from freshman Leron Black,who seems like he will earn every bit of his nickname "The Savage". Black shows a nose for rebounds and as he gains confidence I am not sure that many players will muscle him off the ball. Another interesting thing about the first half, was that Aaron Cosby started of Kendrick Nunn who set out the game.
The second half featured more of the same from Illinois on offense, but showed they have some work to do on the defensive end. While they held Quincy to 20 points in the first half, they allowed them to score 42 in the second. Some of this was due to the bench players getting more playing time, but it also was a result of a few starters having problems keeping the players they were defending in front of them. Quincy seemed to have no problem driving into the lane during the second half and it resulted in a lot of easy baskets inside. If Illinois doesn't remedy that type of defense, they will have a lot of trouble winning games in the Big Ten. This game should give Coach Groce and the Illini staff some great video for teaching moments over the next week of practice.
Overall Grade B
Overall Illinois played great on offense shooting 47% from field goal range and 37% from three. They had 19 assists with only 7 turnovers, with Ahmad Stark and Jaylon Tate combining for a 10-2 assist to turnover ration. The starters combined for 54 and the benched chipped in with 37 points. The freshman for Illinois had great games, with Leron Black totaling 15 points and 8 rebounds, and Michael Finke scoring 9 points while shooting 100%. The games leading scorer was Malcolm HIll who totaled 20 points for the game. All together the freshman and sophomore class combined for 54 of the teams 91 points, which should be a very good sign for the future. It is already clear that this years Illinois team will be light years ahead of last years team when it comes to scoring, the question will be can they come close to how good they were on defense last year. If they can, they will be a very good team, that has the ability to go far into the post season.