Illini Hush Georgia Southern

It wasn't pretty: turnovers, defensive woes, and careless fouls, but Illinois overcame several self-inflicted mistakes to win season opener.

Illinois hung on to win 80-71 over Georgia Southern in a game that should have ended in a much larger margin. However, Illinois will take the win and move to 1-0 on the season.

Senior guard and Champaign native Rayvonte Rice finished with the number on his jersey, 24, to lead the Illini in scoring. Seton Hall transfer Aaron Cosby seconded his effort with 16.

Both Ahmad Starks (10) and Malcolm Hill (11) cracked double-figures.

Jelani Hewitt led Georgia Southern with 22.

Illinois went into halftime tied with the Eagles at 31, but used a surge in the middle of the second half to widen the gap and held on in the end to get the victory.

Offensively, Illinois struggled to find open looks from three in the first half, which may have been due in part to the absence of Nnanna Egwu, who sat an extended period of time, and his ability to set ball screens. However, they started to find their range in the second half and guys like Rice, Cosby, and Starks made some key shots.

Defensively, Illinois struggled in the low post much of the game against the physicality of Georgia Southern, something they know should not have happened. But late in the second half, the Illini tightened up defensively around the perimeter and crashed the defensive boards much more effectively.

The Illini have a quick turnaround and will take on Coppin State Sunday evening.

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