Men’s wheelchair basketball dominates tourney at Mizzou

Since Joey Bugliotta (left) could not jump into the pool on his own, Brian Bell helps weigh the table down on Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. Erica Magda

Since Joey Bugliotta (left) could not jump into the pool on his own, Brian Bell helps weigh the table down on Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. Erica Magda

By Josh Birnbaum

The Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team dominated all competition at a University of Missouri tournament this past weekend, winning all four of its games by a margin of at least 13 points.

The Illini opened against the University of Alabama, forcing 24 turnovers and winning 73-39. Later, they defeated Missouri 77-18.

“You can really see on the court that the trigger for our game is our defense,” head coach Mike Frogley said.

“When we come out and we’re playing good defense together, we force other teams to make bad passes and bad shots.”

Playing these younger and less-experienced teams allowed Frogley to give playing time to some of his rookies, like freshman Tom Smurr.

“Even though it’s a younger team and they’re not necessarily as difficult as other teams, it still requires us to play the game,” said Smurr, who contributed six points, three rebounds and four steals in the Missouri game.

“It’s more or less a mind game – trying to keep ourselves mentally prepared for the next game.”

The Illini also played more experienced opponents, besting the University of Texas-Arlington and the No. 3 University of Arizona, 67-47 and 63-50, respectively.

Freshman Brian Bell scored 26 points against Arizona, and team captain Steve Serio netted 22 points against UTA and 20 against the Wildcats.

“Steve is always important because he runs the show out there,” Frogley said.

“But whoever gets open on offense seems to be the one that scores and rises to the occasion.”

Serio agrees that every member of the team contributes to the wins.

“We have so much talent on this team, now it’s just figuring out how to make everyone’s talents come together,” Serio said.

Illinois will travel to Canada this weekend to face off against the Canadian and Japanese national teams, which will be a challenge because it will be playing under international rules.

“We’re used to a 35-second shot clock … we’re going to be playing with a 24-second shot clock,” Frogley said.

“It’s going to push us a lot and force players to play at a much higher level much more quickly.”