LIVE! Illinois Wesleyan

LIVE! Illinois Wesleyan

CHAMPAIGN — Andres Feliz finished with a game-high 20 points, Trent Frazier had 19 and Ayo Dosunmu 13 more to lead Illinois to an 83-67 exhibition victory against Illinois Wesleyan on Friday night at State Farm Center.

The Illini will officially open the 2018-19 season at 7 p.m. Thursday against Evansville.

****

Illinois 74, IWU 61 — 3:46 left in 2nd half

So ... this is happening.

****

Illinois 63, IWU 41 — 11:41 left in 2nd half

Illinois is 9 of 16 on layups so far tonight. Some Illini — like Kipper Nichols and Ayo Dosunmu — are struggling to finish around the rim. One that isn't? Andres Feliz. The junior guard is 6 of 8 from the field and has 14 points. That trails only Trent Frazier's game-high 18 points.

****

Illinois 40, IWU 23 — Halftime

Some good (Trent Frazier's 13 points) and some bad (10 turnovers) through one half for Illinois. That Illinois Wesleyan has 15 turnovers helps. So does the Illini winning the rebounding battle so far. 

The constant substitutions as Brad Underwood gets different looks at lineup combinations. Can't say he's found one group he's like too much, although he ran with Kipper Nichols and four guards to finish the half.

 

****

Illinois 33, IWU 18 — 6:09 left in 1st half

The clearest sign this isn't last year's charity exhibition game? Look no further than how Trent Frazier has played. The sophomore guard has hit three three-pointers and leads the Illini with 11 points. Illinois Wesleyan is figuring out what happens when you give Frazier even the slightest opening on the perimeter. It doesn't take him long to make his decision. The ball's going up.

****

Illinois 17, IWU 9 — 11:51 left in 1st half

A quick breakdown on the first 9ish minutes ...

— Trent Frazier has the green light to shoot when open, and he's made two three-pointers

— Aaron Jordan and Giorgi Bezhanishvili have one three-pointer apiece.

— Trying to work the ball inside to Bezhanishvili, though, has not worked as well. Three turnovers trying to force entry passes.

— Kipper Nichols is battling on the boards.

— And the substitutions have been wild for Illinois so far. Ten guys have played alreayd.

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

No surprise here. Starters are who Illinois coach Brad Underwood said who start yesterday.

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

A common theme in the last seven months has been how this is a different Illinois team. That's obviously true from a roster construction standpoint, but players and coaches alike have stressed how different this team is from a chemistry standpoint, too. Senior guard Aaron Jordan doubled down on that on the eve of the Illini's exhibition opener.

"I guess it starts with the locker room," Jordan said. "This is the closest team I’ve been with. Guys are really together. All the adversity outside, it’s there, but we’re not letting it get to us. You can see it. It builds a lot of trust — trust on the defensive end and offensive end. We have a long way to go, but it’s positive knowing somebody has your back."

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

A year ago this time — like almost exactly a year ago — Illinois was playing its charity exhibition game against Eastern Illinois. The Illini lost. By 13 points. To say that game didn't go well, is quite the understatement.

Trent Frazier had just two points in 13 minutes against the Panthers. He had trouble simply advancing the ball up the court against a hounding EIU defense. It took about a month, but Frazier's season certainly turned out differently than that first game.

"He’s the guy that I don’t worry about too much," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Trent’s been really good. I think his effort has become extremely consistent. I think he’s grown into that. He has a swagger — a confidence — that he knows that he’s a good player. Last year there was so much doubt and question marks. To his credit, he fought through that, and I think we’ll see that guy that’s got that swagger about him."

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

Today is not Illinois Wesleyan's first exhibition game of the season. Or the week. The Titans actually played last night in Chicago against Illinois-Chicago — an 81-60 win for the Flames. I'd say that re-emphasizes the Illini's advantage tonight.

The most notable stat from IWU's first exhibition? Former St. Thomas More and Champaign Central standout Doug Wallen finishing the game as the Titans' leading scorer with 16 points.

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

It's safe to say the Illinois players — and coaching staff — are fairly excited that tonight's game has finally come. It might not actually count, but Illinois Wesleyan is at least a different team.

"It’s about time," Illinois senior guard Aaron Jordan said about as matter of factly as possible. "I love these guys and love playing against them, but you love to see different color jerseys out there and different opponents and different schemes."

Illinois coach Brad Underwood was in a similar frame of mind. Even though it's an exhibition game, he said there's plenty he'll be able to learn abou this team.

"I’m really happy for these guys that they finally get to get out here and play," Underwood said. "It seems like it’s been forever. Maybe that’s the increased hours in the summer. It seems like we’ve had more practice time than we usually do. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I’m really happy for these guys that they’re giddy. They’re excited. It’s why they came here — to play in this building and play in front of our fans.

"I’m curious to see how they play under the lights and in front of fans. It’s the first time we’ve talked about an opponent and what they do and how guys pick up on things. There’s a plethora of information out there to gather from something like this. I get it. They’re going to be nervous. There’s going to be jitters. It’s something for the veterans as well. It’s good to get that out of the way. That may be the most important thing that happens (tonight)."

****

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

Time to catch up on what you missed if you're not following beat writer Scott Richey (as always, that's me) on Twitter. Of course, you probably should give a follow. If you want. You can do that right here.

****

Good evening everybody. It's finally that time. While I contend it's never not basketball season — it truly has become a 24/7/365 sport — it's hard to argue that point now. Illinois is exactly one hour from tipoff at State Farm Center.

It's basketball season!

Of course, tonight's game is more the unofficial start of the 2018-19 season. After all, it's only an exhibition game against Division III Illinois Wesleyan. Considering the roster turnover (nine newcomers, including Fisher grad Zach Griffith), however, any look at the Illini playing against somebody else is valuable.

Because let's face it. All that's really "known" about this particular Illinois team is what we (media types, fans, etc.) think about particular players and potential lineups. How it all meshes and works on the court is to be determined. That starts — at least in some respects — tonight.

The "official" start of the season isn't until this coming Thursday when Illinois hosts Evansville. That will probably be a truer look at what the Illini are at this point of the season. The truest test, of course, comes in 17 days in Maui when Illinois faces No. 3 Gonzaga. 

While you're getting ready for tonight's game, check out some of our more recent Illinois basketball coverage. The major coverage this week is still on its way. Let's just say you'll want to get your hands on Sunday's News-Gazette for the 40-page special section alone. It covers all things Illini and Big Ten.

Illinois vs. Illinois Wesleyan breakdown

Underwood has 'no problem' with Smith's waiver

Illini offer 2019 center

Guerrier picks Syracuse over Illini, Ducks

Shannon releases new top six

-