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Illinois basketball still strong despite first loss

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

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

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.