Illini end Warhawk’s streak

 

 

By Josh Birnbaum

For the first time in two years, the Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team defeated the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks during an intercollegiate tournament at Edinboro University this past weekend. Whitewater, the No. 1 ranked defending national champions, had been riding a 35-game win streak.

“It’s really important psychologically to beat them,” Lars Spenger said of the 54-50 victory. “It makes us realize that we are one of the best teams in the nation … but we can still improve in so many areas.”

Also impressive was the fact that every player found their way onto the court in each of the three games this past weekend.

“It’s really unusual to be able to play every single player in every single game regardless of situation,” head coach Mike Frogley said. “It can only be described as a complete and total team effort … every single guy is contributing in a significant way in every single game.”

Illinois took on Southwest Minnesota State University in their first game of the weekend, winning 56-35, shooting 55.3 percent for the game with five players scoring at least eight points.

Next, the Illini beat Edinboro, 58-45, with Spenger contributing 12 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Brian Bell added 28 points and eight rebounds, shooting 13-for-17.

“Brian stepped up this weekend and got really good looks because Lars Spenger and Steve Serio were so effective on their side of the court,” Frogley said. “The guys complement each other so well.”

Their offensive success carried over to the team’s last game against Whitewater. Spenger, Serio and Bell combined for 36 of the Illini’s 54 points, and Bell and Serio played the full 40 minutes.

“Steve and Brian did a good job jumping their three-point shooters,” Spenger said. Whitewater usually scores at least 20 points off three pointers, but they only scored nine during the game against Illinois, Spenger added.

“If we continue playing the way we did last weekend, Whitewater will have a tough time reclaiming another championship this year,” Bell said.

Frogley was excited for the win over Whitewater but said he was even more impressed with how his team behaved after the game.

“They were definitely enjoying it, savoring it, talking about it on the bus all the way home,” Frogley said. “But the first thing they wanted to do when they got on the bus was to watch videotape of the game … they understood that it was big, but it’s not the end of the season yet. They’ve still got more to work on.”