Bruce Weber's Illini basketball team began exhibition play on Tuesday night, and not surprisingly, it was a bit of a struggle. Faced with quite a few new players this season, and also a couple injuries to deal with, the Illini were not at full strength. Transfer Sam Maniscalco, who came from Bradley, sat out this game because his surgically repaired ankle has been bothering him as of late, paving the way for freshman Tracy Abrams to run the offense from the point guard position. Fellow freshman Devin Langford also sat out the game, due to a broken finger sustained in practice last week. A late scratch was Mychael Henry, who injured himself in practice on Monday, did not play as well. Then, there is the latest disciplinary case involving Crandall Head. Stemming from an incident that happened in the off-season, Head has been suspended for the first four games, including the exhibition contests, for what Weber commonly calls "not taking care of his business". This could mean anything from not going to class, to a number of other issues. Apparently Weber is not freeing himself of these issues, given all the headaches that Jereme Richmond caused in his one season in Champaign last season. As for the game, sophomore Meyers Leonard led the way for the Illini with 18 points, as they defeated Wayne State (Nebraska) 79-51 at the Assembly Hall. I was particularly impressed with two freshmen, Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shaw. Egwu moves up and down the court as good as I've seen a big man do in an awfully long time, and as far as Shaw goes, he has tremendous potential. This team will take their lumps on occasion, but I do think that they will end up surprising some people as well. They finish up the exhibition portion of the season next Monday night, when they welcome Quincy University to the Assembly Hall, a game that is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 pm.
Since the Illini women's volleyball team lost their #1 ranking at Nebraska two weeks ago, Kevin Hambly's squad has dropped 2 of their last 3 matches, the latest setback to Purdue 3-1 on Wednesday night in West Lafayette. Hambly has discovered that life on the road in the Big Ten is tough, especially when teams are out for you. The Illini are currently 21-3 overall and 10-3 in the conference, and will travel to Bloomington, Indiana on Saturday evening to attempt to get back on the winning track. Game time with the Hoosiers is set for 6:00 pm central time.
It's postseason time for the Illini women's soccer team, as they are currently involved in the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini defeated Michigan in the regular season finale last weekend in Champaign, and advanced in the opening round of the tourney with a win on penalty kicks over Ohio State in Evanston. The Illini will play at 1:15 pm central time on Friday against Michigan State, a match that will be televised on the Big Ten Network.