Illinois basketball still strong despite first loss

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing their first game of the season, Illinois head coach John Groce said the team played hard against Missouri.

The Illinois Fighting Illini lost their first game of the season last week, 82-73 to Missouri, but head coach John Groce said there were still positives that the team could take from the game. The Illini struggled from three point range (8-32), but were able to stay close to the Tigers, and Groce was pleased with that:

"I want to give our guys a lot of credit," Groce said. "I told them in the locker room I was really proud of them and their effort. I thought we played extremely hard.

The fact that Illinois was even in the game late is impressive, considering the fact that they were outrebounded by Missouri by a mammoth 51-29 margin. Despite the loss, Illinois' season is far from over. The team should be in the hunt for a Big Ten title, and will be in the NCAA Tournament barring a complete collapse in conference play.

The Illini play again on Saturday, Dec. 29, when they host the Auburn Tigers at Assembly Hall. They open Big Ten conference play on Jan. 2 against the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette.

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