Illini men’s wheelchair basketball team dominates competition, wins five games

By Josh Birnbaum

The No. 2 Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team dominated all competition this weekend by winning all five of its games at IMPE on Friday and Saturday.

These wins were especially helpful since the men just came off a devastating loss to No. 1 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater last week.

“Last week, the big factors were: we gave a lot of points off turnovers, we gave up a lot of three pointers, and we didn’t box out well,” head coach Mike Frogley said. “We lost those three battles against Whitewater … today we decidedly won all of those battles.”

The men began the weekend with a 63-26 win over last years’ national champions, the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks.

“That’s probably our best game against UTA in probably six or seven years,” Frogley said.

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Illinois kept the Mavericks to 25.5 percent shooting from the field for the game, with co-captain Denny Muha scoring a team-high 22 points.

The trend continued later in the day when the Illini handily defeated Missouri, 60-32, and Alabama, 68-50.

Illinois capitalized on Alabama’s 15 turnovers, scoring 26 points off them. Additionally, Illinois had less than 10 turnovers in both games – a big improvement from last week’s defeat.

The game against No. 6 Arizona the next day was closer, but Illinois won, 65-57, thanks to co-captain Steve Serio and Lars Spenger scoring 20 and 24 points, respectively.

Spenger credits his scoring to the help of teammate and co-captain Josh George.

“Josh helped me out a lot,” Spenger said. “He helped me get in the key a lot and get a lot of good looks and I finished.”

Frogley says that George’s speed and back picking really opened up the court for the Illini.

“He probably had 30 back picks,” Frogley said. “Phenomenal performance by Josh.”

George explains that his back-picking allowed for 4-on-4 play.

“When teams play a packed-in zone, by the nature of the size of the wheelchairs, it makes it pretty difficult to get in the lane,” George said. “So with my speed I was able to back pick a player on the opposing team, which basically means I don’t let one of their players get back to the defensive end of the court.”

Illinois won its final match against Oklahoma State University, 65-34. It was the last home game for seniors Josh George, Denny Muha, Paul Ward and Brian Sheehan.

Now, with only three weeks left before the national tournament in Edinboro, Pa., the men plan to prepare every day at practice.

“We just need to maintain and build on the focus we had this past weekend,” George said.