Illini NIT game not in town

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CHAMPAIGN — The Illini men’s basketball team has a big game on Wednesday night. They tipped off against the University of Central Florida in Orlando at 6 pm. There’s a trip to the NIT Semifinals on the line. Fans of the orange and blue say they should have been playing in town. The Illini are a higher seed than UCF, but the State Farm Center was already booked.

42nd Street is playing at 7:30 pm as part of the Broadway Series. There will be singing and dancing, but as you might imagine, no dribbling or shooting. State Farm Center director Kevin Ullestad says they’ve had a good turnout for the other NIT games and were happy to accommodate the first two, when they didn’t have anything else scheduled, but they don’t save days specifically for the NIT tournament schedule. He says they’re glad to offer a variety of entertainment through the year.

“Little bit of a different situation, but we have the unique opportunity to take our arena and transform it into a theater in our Broadway setup, so obviously there’s different expectations and different experience as well,” said Ullestad.

There are also different ticket prices. Monday’s basketball game against Boise State cost $5 for students and went up to $22 for reserved seats. The Broadway series tickets for 42nd Street are listed between $39 and $58. Ullestad says he wishes they could have made space for both of them. But since they can’t, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the Illini at home next season.

Thousands of people showed up for the other two NIT games at the State Farm Center. There were 4,700 fans at the first game against Valparaiso and more than 5,700 for this week’s game against Boise State. The regular season average is about 13,000 tickets sold.  

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