WCIA — The game are about to start counting for Illinois men’s basketball, although it definitely wishes Sunday night’s win over No. 1 Kansas in the Maui Strong Relief Matchup would count towards its tournament resume.

Instead of an actual win on their record, the Illini will have to settle for a tone-setter for the season. 72 of the Illini’s 82 total points were scored by players with at least four years experience at the college level, a huge difference from last season’s youthful squad. Having that previous experience within the year’s team is giving Illinois a sense of confidence.

“Kind of getting on the same page too. I feel like we’re all on the same page here offensively,” senior Coleman Hawkins said. “It’s been successful so far and it’s only going to get better too.”

“Been there, done that. That’s very, very cliché but there’s no indecisiveness with veterans and with older players,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “When they’ve been in that moment they’re not afraid to go make a play.”

One week from Monday, it is tipoff for the 2023-24 season. Illinois will host Eastern Illinois for the second straight season opener. The Panthers finished 9-22 last season, last place in the Ohio Valley Conference.