CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Aaron Jordan scored 19 points and Ayo Dosunmu added 18 as Illinois beat Evansville 99-60 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night. The Illini played an up-tempo game utilizing nearly every player on the bench. The Aces turned the ball over 25 times, leading to 32 Illini points.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Aaron Jordan scored 19 points and Ayo Dosunmu added 18 as Illinois beat Evansville 99-60 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.
The Illini played an up-tempo game utilizing nearly every player on the bench. The Aces turned the ball over 25 times, leading to 32 Illini points.
"They were very physical," said Evansville coach Walter McCarty. "But 25 turnovers? You can't win games with numbers like that."
Andres Feliz and Kipper Nichols added 16 and 13 points respectively for the Illini. Freshman center Giorgi Bezhanishvili grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
K. J. Riley led the Aces with 14 points. Marty Hill scored 13 points and Shea Feehan added 12 for Evansville.
"There were a lot of things to like tonight," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. "I was really pleased we had 22 assists. We are capable of that every night. This is a very athletic and unselfish team."
Illinois was in charge from the opening tip, going on runs of 10-0, 13-0 and 16-1 to lead 53-22 at the break. The Aces turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, leading to 18 Illini points.
Illinois showed a lot of speed and athleticism, and seemingly wore out the Aces by the end of the game.
"We allowed them to get out into transitions a lot off turnovers, and they were very fast," McCarty said. "Our turnovers allowed them to take advantage throughout the whole game, although I thought we were a bit more composed the second half."
Underwood said his team purposefully slowed the pace in the second half. "We did slow it down some, simply because of the score."
Jordan, who was 5 of 8 from the 3-point line, gave credit to his teammates.
"They found me and I took the shots. I love these guys, and I love this team," he said. "We really played fast tonight, faster than I've seen us play. We just grabbed rebounds and we were gone down the court."
Illinois is 34-2 when starting the season at State Farm Center, including an active streak of 22 straight wins.
Evansville: It was the first time the Aces have played Illinois but they are 15-35 against other Big Ten members.
Illinois: All eyes were on the young Illinois team as coach Brad Underwood starts his second season after going 14-18 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten last year. Two players expected to make an impact this year, guard Alan Griffin and 7-foot center Samba Kane, didn't play Thursday. Griffin tweaked a knee in practice, while Kane violated an undetermined team rule and was held out. Underwood said both players will be available for the next game.
Jordan hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in less than a minute, sparking a 13-0 run that put the Illini up 35-14 with 8:09 to play in the first half.
Bezhanishvili, a crowd favorite originally from the country of Georgia before moving to Austria and eventually to New Jersey, was called for a technical foul in the second half, which mystified many since he'd seemingly done nothing wrong.
"Well, I was talking a little too much to the referee," he said, smiling broadly. "I do talk a lot, you know. I should not do that I guess."
Jordan agreed. "Giorgi is a personality kind of guy. He'll learn his boundaries eventually."
Illinois scored 22 of its 53 first-half points in the paint, including a spectacular cross-court pass from Nichols to Bezhanishvili for a rim-rattling dunk with 30 seconds left in the half that brought the crowd to its feet.
Evansville: The Aces travel to Xavier on Saturday.
Illinois: The Illini host Georgetown on Tuesday.