LAS VEGAS (WCIA) — What happens in Las Vegas usually stays there but Illinois basketball left Sin City with a new perspective and valuable experience playing their first high major games of the season. The Illini (4-1) went 1-1 in the desert, finishing runner-up in the Continental Tire Main Event, with a win over No. 8 UCLA before falling to No. 16 Virginia in the title game. It was a great learning experience for the team’s four freshmen, who played on the biggest stage of their lives thus far.

“All these guys compete and they’re about all the right things,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about his freshmen. “They’re about winning, they’re about us and they’re not out here trying to play for their draft status.”

Jayden Epps led Illinois in scoring against the Cavaliers putting up 14 points off the bench. Fellow point guard Skyy Clark scored 18 points in the two games out west, he’s started all five contests so far this season. Sencire Harris played a key role in the UCLA game in the second half, providing a big spark off the bench. The Ohio native only ended up playing nine minutes against the Bruins but went 2-of-4 from the field, dished an assist and had two steals. Ty Rodgers struggled with foul trouble, committing four in 15 minutes on the court across both games, but Underwood says he likes the mindset of all four guys.

“These guys are here, they’re invested in everything we’re doing and that’s what I like about this group. They’re not going to play with fear, they’re going to cut it loose.”

Illinois returns to the court Friday night at State Farm Center hosting Lindenwood for an 8 p.m. tip in a stream only game on BTN+.