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Rice leads Illini to 80-63 season-opening win

Champaign-native Rayvonte Rice scored a team-high 22 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in his Illinois debut to lead the Orange and Blue past Alabama State 80-63 in the season opener for both teams. Nnanna Egwu (10 points, 10 rebounds) tallied his second-consecutive double-double dating back to last season. Senior Joseph Bertrand added 14 points and 8 rebounds, while junior Tracy Abrams chipped in 9 points, while dishing out 3 assists.
CHAMPAIGN -- Champaign-native Rayvonte Rice scored a team-high 22 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in his Illinois debut to lead the Orange and Blue past Alabama State 80-63 in the season opener for both teams.  Nnanna Egwu (10 points, 10 rebounds) tallied his second-consecutive double-double dating back to last season.  Senior Joseph Bertrand added 14 points and 8 rebounds, while junior Tracy Abrams chipped in 9 points, while dishing out 3 assists.  But the star of the game was Rice, who proved he can be a dynamic scorer for his hometown team.

"My job is to be aggressive and do what my team needs to me to do," said Rice.

After lackluster performances in each of their two exhibition games, the Illini raced out to a 40-26 halftime lead and never looked back.  All 11 eligible players saw action in the first half, giving head coach John Groce a chance to play with an expanded rotation.

"I like the bounce we had tonight," said Groce.  "I could look in their eyes and see that they had it tonight."

Illinois did an outstanding job on the glass, outrebounding the Hornets 52-28.  Rice (9 reb.) and Bertrand (8 reb.) both came within a eyelash of a double-double, while Egwu led the way with 10 boards.

"The bigs and the guards collectively did a great job boxing out and getting rebounds," said Egwu.

Illinois (1-0) is back in action Sunday when they host Jacksonville State at State Farm Center at 5:00 pm.
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