Illinois played its second exhibition game on Sunday afternoon against Northwood (Mich.) and the Fighting Illini struggled in stretches, trailing 48-47 with 13:31 to go before taking control of the contest. The 21-7 run was enough to push Illinois to an 83-67 victory, with Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice scoring a team-high 16 points. In total five Illinois players scored in double figures, with three of the five being underclassmen.
Sophomore guard Mike LaTulip scored 14 points (3-for-5 3PT) and freshmen Jaylon Tate (three assists) and Malcolm Hill (seven rebounds and three assists) accounted for 11 and ten points respectively. Illinois won the contest without the services of junior guard Tracy Abrams, who was sidelined with a mild hamstring strain according to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune.
As a sophomore Abrams averaged 10.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Fighting Illini, and with the loss of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson the Chicago native will be asked to produce even more for John Groce’s team. And that production isn’t solely about the box score, as the loss of those seniors (including Tyler Griffey) means that more will be required of veterans such as Abrams and redshirt senior Joe Bertrand (ten points in Sunday’s win) in the leadership department as well.
Illinois opens regular season play on Friday night against Alabama State, and they’ll play their first five games at home before visiting UNLV on November 26.