Champaign, Ill., Oct. 30, 2016 – Junior guard Kevin Kucera scored a game-high 20 points and added seven assists as the Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team dropped an exhibition game 82-75 at the University of Illinois Sunday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
WashU cut a 29-point deficit to 12 with an 18-1 run midway through the second half. Kucera had eight of the 18 points for the Bears, including a pair of threes. WashU outscored Illinois 45-42 in the second half.
"We appreciate the opportunity to come up here and play. We know that is was a great learning experience for us, and we hope they learned too," said WashU head coach Mark Edwards. "The whole idea is to compete for 40 minutes. I wanted to make sure we left as a better team when we came in and we are."
WashU shot 46.8 percent (29-of-62) from the field and outrebounded Illinois 38-36. The Bears committed 27 turnovers in the loss.
WashU hit its first three shots from the field and led 7-2 with 15:38 left in the first half. The Bears gave the Fighting Illini fits on the defense end limiting the home squad to 1-of-8 shooting from the field.
The Illini answered with a 9-0 run to take a 14-9 lead. The Bears committed nine fouls in the opening eight minutes of play.
A left-handed hook shot by junior David Schmelter ended the run, and then junior Sasha Sobolev hit an 18-footer to trim the advantage to 14-13. Knupp nailed a three-pointer from the corner to get the lead back for WashU, and the lead grew to seven (24-17) after a jumper by Bregman. The seven-point advantage was the largest of the game for the Bears.
Illinois answered with a 14-0 run to take a commanding 31-24 lead. The Bears hit just one field goal in the final six minutes and trailed 40-30 at the half.
WashU was called for 18 fouls in the opening half, as Illinois hit 15-of-20 from the free-throw line. The Bears committed 15 turnovers in the first half.
Illinois scored the first 13 points of the second half to jump out in front 53-30. The Fighting Illini lead grew to 29 (69-40), but the Bears answered back. Kucera hit a three-pointer and Knupp had a reverse lay-up to cap a 9-0 run.
Kucera continued to have the hot land as he nailed another a three-pointer and scored on a lay-up as the Bears extended the run to 18-1 to trim the lead to 70-58. A pair of free-throws by Kucera and a free-throw by Sanders got the lead down under double figures at 76-67.
"We knew it could've gone south really quick the way they were playing," said Kucera. "We did not come here to get blown out, we came here to win. It was good to see we battled back and it was definitely a learning experience we will take into the season."
Maverick Morgan led Illinois with 20 points, while Michael Finke added 13.
WashU opens its 102nd season of college basketball with a road game at Webster University on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
BEAR NOTEBOOK: Illinois leads the all-time series with WashU, 12-2, and the teams met for the first time since the 1964-65 season … Sunday's game marked the first contest against a Big 10 opponent since 1987.