The Illini lost their first game of the season to a challenging and determined Virginia team in Vegas
What a battle this game turned out to be. The Illini held a two-point lead with under four minutes to play, but Virginia went on a huge run to win it 70-61. It was undoubtedly a closer game than the score on the board. This Illini team learned a lot about themselves in this loss, there is no doubt about it. Congrats to Virginia on winning the Vegas Main Event title belt.
The Good Things
The Illini got a lot out of their freshmen in this game. They made big shots and defensive plays along the way, they should all be getting consistent minutes.
- Key Stats
- 22 bench points
- Melendez and Clark were 50% from three (4-for-8)
- 11 assists on 24 field goals
- Hawkins – 3 blocks
It was hard to find critical stats in the positive category. There were a lot of tough individual stat lines for a number of key players. However, I still come away from this game with a positive outlook for the future, Virginia is one of the best teams in the country.
The Bad Things
They made a number of errors down the stretch on both ends of the floor, but that happens often with a team that hasn’t been together for too long. I’m not worried about these stats becoming trends though.
- Key Stats
- Shannon Jr. – 6 turnovers, 5 fouls, 1-for-5 from three
- 4-for-9 from the free throw line (44%)
- 22 personal fouls
The referees certainly had an impact on this game, but the Illini didn’t fall because of them. It was a tough day for Shanon Jr. after a couple of brilliant performances. An elite defensive team like Virginia was able to prepare to slow him down and they did. They have to clean up at the free-throw line, this is another season with lackluster numbers at the charity stripe. It makes a big difference in the game, especially when the officials called 36 personal fouls total.
Three Studs of the Game
Stud #3 – F Ben Vander Plas (Virginia) – 8 points, 10 rebounds, 8-9 FT
It’s not often that a player without a field goal makes the list for studs of the game, but Vander Plas played a huge role in it. He drew some veteran foul calls and converted at the free-throw line.
Stud #2 – G Jayden Epps (Illini) – 14 points, 6-13 FG, 2-5 3pt, 4 rebounds
Epps made some mistakes down the stretch, but he also got to the rim with ease against an elite defense and made two big-time shots. The future is so bright for these freshmen, especially with how Epps and Harris played in Vegas.
Stud #1 – G Reece Beekman (Virginia) – 17 points, 5-12 FG, 1-3 3pt, 6-8 FT, 3 assists, 3 steals, 4 rebounds
It was Armaan Franklin against Baylor for Virginia, but in this game it was Beekman. He was terrific on both ends of the floor and disrupted Shannon Jr. on multiple occasions. He did everything well in this game, he deserves to be the top stud of the game.
Onto the Next One
Next up for the Illini: Friday, November 25th vs. Lindenwood (8 PM CST / B1G+)
The Illini’s next game will be against newly minted Division I school Lindenwood. To be frank, they are one of the worst teams in the country and the Illini should handle them with ease, but their schedule will beef up after this game with an average Syracuse team coming to town.
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