Belleville native Malcolm Hill overcame a slow start to score 21 points and pick up eight rebounds to lead Illinois past Southeast Missouri 81-62 in the season-opener for both teams.
Hill, a Belleville East graduate, opened the game 0 for 4 from the floor but found his touch late in the first half.
Maverick Morgan added 16 points for Illinois (1-0) and was 8 of 8 from the field. Michael Finke scored 12 and pulled down seven rebounds, while sixth-year guard Tracy Abrams scored 13 in his return after two-straight seasons out with injuries.
Southeast Missouri opened hot, riding Antonius Cleveland’s eight early points for a 25-18 lead and keeping a sparse opening-night crowd quiet.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
But the Illini turned their defense up and started finding the basket, going on a 12-0 run to turn that seven-point deficit into a 30-25 lead on a 3-pointer from the left corner from guard Tracy Abrams.
Milos Vranes led Southeast Missouri with 12 points. Cleveland finished with 10.
One of Illinois’ most pressing early questions will be who emerges as the primary point guards. The team lacked a true point guard at times last season, one of the key problems in a 15-19 season. Abrams started Friday and senior Jaylon Tate backed him up, playing 25 minutes and scoring just two points but dishing out six assists. Talented freshman Te'Jon Lucas didn’t play until 17 seconds were left in the game. Abrams’ night had to be encouraging.
Illinois hosts Northern Kentucky Sunday in the second game of a five-game homestand.
Wright St 85, Southern Illinois 81
At Carbondale, Steven Davis gave Wright State a five-point lead with a 3-ponter with less than a minute to go and the Raiders held off Southern Illinois the rest of the way to take a win in the season opener Friday night.
Mike La Tulip hit four straight free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.
Mike Rodriguez finished with 29 points, passed out six assists and made three steals to lead the Salukis, who were 28 of 55 (50 percent) from the field and 9 of 20 from distance.
Northwestern 94, Mississippi Valley State 63
At Evanston, Vic Law had a career-high 18 points, Scottie Lindsey added 17 and Northwestern opened its fourth season under coach Chris Collins with a rout of Mississippi Valley State on Friday night.
Sanjay Lumpkin, Bryant McIntosh and Isiah Brown had 11 points apiece as the Wildcats won their ninth straight season opener. McIntosh, the team’s leading returning scorer, was just 1 for 6 on 3-pointers.
Law made 7 of 10 from the field – including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers – but was just 1 for 7 from the free-throw line.
Brown, the heralded freshman from Seattle, bounced back after playing just five first-half minutes after picking up two fouls.
Northern Illinois 80, Indiana State 78, OT
At DeKalb, Laytwan Porter made the game-winning free throw with 4 seconds left in overtime and Northern Illinois beat Indiana State in Friday night’s season opener.
The Sycamores rallied to 72-all on Brenton Scott’s jumper with 2 seconds left in regulation. Indian State led 77-75 in overtime after Scott drained a 3 and Brandon Murphy added two free throws, but Northern Illinois’ Aaric Armstead tied it at 78 with a dunk.
Porter made a key block when the Sycamores’ Jordan Barnes drove for a layup, was fouled and made both from the line.
Marin Maric scored 25 points, Levi Bradley added 14, and Jaylen Key had 13 and 10 rebounds for the Huskies.
Murray State 73, Illinois State 70
At Murray, Ky., Jonathan Stark made a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left, lifting Murray State to a win over Illinois State in the season opener for both teams on Friday night.
Paris Lee’s layup for the Redbirds tied it at 70-all with seven seconds left. Stark brought the ball up the court and pulled up off the dribble, shooting over Tony Wills’ outstretched left hand at the top of the key for the winner.
Stark, a transfer from Tulane who sat out the 2015-16 season according to NCAA transfer rules, finished with 19 points, including nine in the final 1:29.
Deontae Hawkins had 14 points and 15 rebounds for Illinois State.
Kansas State 82, Western Illinois 55
At Manhattan, Kan., Barry Brown had 11 of his 18 points in the first half, and Kansas State opened the season with a win over Western Illinois on Friday night.
Xavier Sneed and Wesley Iwundu added 17 points each for Kansas State while Garret Covington was the high man for Western Illinois with 17 points as well.
Western Illinois struggled to be consistent from the field shooting 36.5 percent for the ballgame.
Bradley 70, Ill-Springfield 55
At Peoria, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye scored 12 points, Jojo McGlaston added 10 points and Bradley downed Division II-member Illinois-Springfield in Friday night’s season opener for both teams.
The Braves shot 47 percent from the field (26 of 55) to Illinois-Springfield’s 35 percent (20 of 58), but were outrebounded 43-33.
Lautier-Ogunleye, McGlaston and Koch Bar each had five boards for the Braves and Antione Pittman had a team-high four assists.