Illinois beats Lewis 83-50 in first exhibition game of the season

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The Illinois bench celebrates during the Illini’s game against the Lewis Flyers. Illinois beat Lewis 83-50 in the team’s first exhibition game of the season. Jonathan Bonaguro The Daily Illini.

By Nathan DeHaan, On-Air Sports Editor

The Illinois men’s basketball team got off to a slow start Friday night against Division-II opponent Lewis in the team’s home exhibition game at the State Farm Center. Eventually, the Illini got things turned around and won 83-50.

It was a tale of two halves for the Illini, who started off the game slow shooting the ball 1-10 with seven turnovers. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood called the team’s first timeout 6:15 into the game trailing 11-2. Meanwhile, Lewis began the game red hot, shooting 5-6 from three and 7-for-15 from the field.

Illinois’ first lead came with 55 seconds remaining in the first half off a sophomore Giorgi Bezhanishvili layup. Illinois went into the locker room for halftime with a 32-29 on a 15-4 run. The Illini shot 12-28 from the field in the first half, 3-12 from behind the arc and 5-10 from the free-throw line.

The second half was an entirely different story. The Illini came out of halftime hot and didn’t cool down for the rest of the game, starting the half on an 18-5 run over the first 8:27. Illinois shot 58.6 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from three in the second half.

The Illinois defense remained disciplined throughout the game, only allowing 21 second-half points to the flyers, and the Illini won, convincingly, because of it.

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Freshman center Kofi Cockburn shined in his first game in an Illinois uniform with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The 4-star freshmen from Middle Village, New York stands at 7-feet, 290 pounds and will be a key player for the Illini this year. After the game, his teammates had some high praise for the Jamaican big man.

“He’s a monster down there, man,” said junior guard Trent Fraizer. “It’s crazy to say he’s gotten three times better since when he got here.”

Cockburn wasn’t the only freshmen that impressed in the game. Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk didn’t get into the game until the second half but made the absolute most of his time in. Bosmans-Verdonk finished with 11 points, three rebounds and one assist in just eight minutes, shooting 100 percent from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc.

After the game, Underwood thought Bosmans-Verdonk’s biggest contribution came on the other side of the ball.

“I was more impressed with his defense. Yes, he made shots. But I thought his defensive effort was sensational,” Underwood said.

Illinois kicks off its highly-anticipated regular season at home on Tuesday against Nicholls State. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.

@dehaan_nathan

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