Illinois 85, Georgia Southern 50
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Georgia Southern put up a fight against Duke four days earlier but never managed to run with a weakened Illinois squad as the Illini beat the Eagles 85-50 Friday night.
Illinois (3-1) is missing two starters to injury and a third to a suspension and had to reach so far down its bench that walk-on Chris Hicks even got in 8 minutes, but the team still controlled the entire game.
Illinois guard Trent Meacham, normally a backup who wasn’t guaranteed a scholarship until coach Bruce Weber realized he had an extra one to give, opened scoring with jumper. He led Illinois with 19 points and four assists, making the most of his temporary starting role. The Champaign native got a standing ovation when he hit the bench for the first time, nine minutes into the second half.
Illinois’ next three buckets came from forward Warren Carter, who found himself in foul trouble early in the game. Carter led all scoring in the first half, collecting 11 points despite playing just 9 minutes.
After trailing Jackson State the entire first half Wednesday, Illinois never relinquished the lead Friday, building a 10-point cushion just 4:14 into the game.
Georgia Southern (1-2) could not repeat its early success against the Blue Devils as Illinois held team leaders Dwayne Foreman and Donte Gennie to four and six first-half points, respectively.
Guard Jimmy Tobias was the only Georgia Southern player in double digits, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds for the Eagles. Illinois carried a comfortable 45-25 lead into the second stanza, and only built on it.
Illinois still struggled to hold onto the ball, turning it over 19 times. But after disappointing free throw shooting in its first two games, the Illini improved to 75.6 percent from the line.