Illinois gets hot from three in 47-point win over McKendree

Illinois+Tracy+Abrams+drives+to+the+basket+during+the+game+against+Southeast+Missouri+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Friday%2C+November+11.+The+Illini+won+81-62.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Tracy Abrams drives to the basket during the game against Southeast Missouri at State Farm Center on Friday, November 11. The Illini won 81-62.

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

Led by Jalen Coleman-Lands and Tracy Abrams, Illinois basketball got the 112-65 win over McKendree on Tuesday at State Farm Center.

The Illini dominated the Bearcats from distance in a 16-for-28 effort spearheaded by guard Coleman-Lands’ 6-for-9 night from beyond the arc. Coleman-Lands tallied 18 points to go along with three steals and three assists.

Abrams was perfect beyond the arc with four three-pointers to go along with six assists, and forward Michael Finke who chipped in 17 points and eight boards.

“I started a little slow, but I feel like my teammates do a great job of just trusting me,” Coleman-Lands said. “It’s just getting repetition in and getting ready for the next game.”

The 16 three-pointers tied the Illinois program record, and broke the State Farm Center record.  The 112 points was the second best of head coach John Groce’s career.

“It was just a matter of time. It’s like riding a bike for him (Coleman-Lands),” Groce said. “He’s just going to figure it out.”

The Illinois offense attacked its Division II opponent early and often, stretching the lead to 20 midway through the first half, behind the deadly perimeter shooting.

The crisp play was a welcome sight for the Illini and Groce. Illinois had been plagued by slow starts, falling behind early to Northern Kentucky and SEMO in the team’s first two games.

“We talked about it as a team, we wanted to jump out early,” Finke said. “We didn’t want to give them a shot. We just wanted to go out there and be the stronger team and set the rules.”

The Illini forced 16 Bearcats’ turnovers. Groce’s squad scored 20 points off the Bearcat turnovers and only surrendered six turnovers of it’s own.

The game was a complete turnaround from the Malcolm Hill dominated game on Sunday against Northern Kentucky.

While six players scored in double-digits for Illinois, Malcolm Hill was held to only three points and took a back seat to Abrams and Coleman-Lands.

“We have threats at a lot of positions, and we’re going to have different leading scorers every game,” Finke said. “We just have so many threats everywhere that teams are going to have to respect us. A lot of people are capable of putting up points, and I think it’s just tough for them to guard us.”

After having to sweat it out against two mid-majors, Illinois got an easy win with the opportunity to prepare for the NIT Season Tip-off beginning this weekend. Illinois could possibly play West Virginia on Nov 24, which would be the team’s first top-25 opponent.

After the 47-point drubbing of McKendree, Groce said he has confidence in some of the previously troubling aspects of his team.

“I thought it was encouraging how we rebounded the ball better in the second half,” Groce said. “We’re making some strides. There’s still some synchronization that needs to take place.”

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