Men’s wheelchair basketball team takes two of three games on opening weekend

By Thomas Polcyn

The Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team began their season at the Southwest Minnesota State collegiate tournament in Marshall, Minnesota, this weekend. SO

The Illini played three games and won two. Illinois was originally scheduled to play four games, but cancelled its fourth after a power outage.SO

The Illini won their first game 41-35 on Friday against Missouri. Ryan Neiswender led the Illini with 12 points. In addition to Neiswender’s contribution, the Illini dominated in the paint, scoring 26 points down low as opposed to Missouri’s 16.

Illinois’ second game was a different story. The Illini squared up against defending national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater. After owning the paint in the first game, the Illini regressed heavily in their second matchup.

They were outscored in the paint 30-4 and outrebounded 34-16. One positive take away from the game was Neiswender’s continued scoring contributions. For his second-straight game, he led the team in scoring with 14 points.

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    In their final game, the Illini bounced back strong to blow out Southwest Minnesota State 79-39. The Illini offense was clicking all game and featured three players with double-digit point totals. Derek Hoot led the way with 23 points and six rebounds, while Neiswender continued his torrid pace racking up another 18 points. The Illini also had a monster performance down in the paint and outscored Southwest Minnesota State 40-16 down low.

    Neiswender stuffed the stat sheet for the Illini all weekend, scoring 44 points to go along with 18 assists and 20 rebounds. The junior dominated all weekend and if he can keep it up it will be a huge boost to the young Illini team.

    Overall, the weekend was consistent with what assistant coach Kate Rougeau expected. The team is very young and will face a tough learning curve in order to garner early success. Last season it graduated three starters, so there will undoubtedly be a bit of an adjustment period.

    Not many universities have wheelchair basketball teams, and the Illini will get rematches with all three of the teams they played this weekend. Illinois was supposed to play Wisconsin-Whitewater twice this weekend and will head to Whitewater, Wisconsin, on Nov. 20-21 to play the Warhawks, Missouri and Alabama in a four-team tournament.SO

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