Illinois wheelchair basketball team hosts tournament this weekend

By Lucas Wright

The Illinois wheelchair basketball team will play host to a tournament Friday and Saturday at the ARC featuring Missouri, Southwestern Minnesota State, Edinburg and Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The Illini have the third-best record in the country out of the seven national championship-eligible teams. Head coach Matt Buchi attributes a lot of the team’s success to senior Nick Goncin and sophomore Ryan Neiswender. 

Goncin is a member of the Canadian national team in the offseason, and Neiswender plays for the US national team outside of college play. 

“Those are our two big shooters who usually have big games for us,” Buchi said.

The Illini are looking to solidify their winning record with a strong weekend and increase the likelihood the team grabs a high ranking in the national championship tournament. That’s the team’s main focus, according to Buchi. 

On the women’s side, head coach Steph Wheeler’s team has a wealth of experience, with two sophomores, three juniors, three seniors and two graduate students.

In the team’s last action, it picked up a pair of wins against Wisconsin-Whitewater, buoyed by the play of graduate student Helen Freeman, who scored 22 points and 29 in the Illini’s two wins against the Warhawks.

Illinois is 4-1 against Wisconsin-Whitewater this season. The two teams face off twice this weekend.

The men’s team will kick off the tournament Friday afternoon with a game at 1:45 p.m. against Edinboro, and follow that with a matchup against rival Missouri at 6:30 p.m.

The women’s team is also playing Friday afternoon at 5:15 against Wisconsin-Whitewater and Friday evening at 8:15 against Edinboro.

Both teams will wrap up the tournament on Saturday against Wisconsin-Whitewater. The women’s team plays at 4:00 p.m. and the men’s team plays at 5:45.

Lucas can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @LucasWright95.