Illini, Mountaineers entertain at Aviano
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Troops based overseas usually have to rely on AFN if they want to watch two college basketball powerhouses in action.
Wednesday night was an exception at Aviano, though, as Illinois and West Virginia played a 20-minute exhibition in what is believed to be the first time two men’s NCAA basketball teams have played at a military base overseas. Both teams are on tours of Italy playing against international teams and received a special waiver from the NCAA to play against each other on base.
The Illini jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back on the way to a 47-26 “victory” that won’t count on any standings or record books. Illinois led 27-8 after 10 minutes and had its biggest lead of the game at 45-19 with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left.
D. J. Richardson led the Illini with 11 points, while Mike Henry scored seven and Sam Maniscalco six. Kevin James and Darryl Bryant each had eight for West Virginia.
A team made up of Aviano airmen and dependents served as a warm-up act for both teams by playing them for 10-minute contests. West Virginia won, 25-7, and Illinois came out on top, 26-12.
Players from the two collegiate teams and from Aviano then engaged in a dunk contest. Illinois’ Joseph Bertrand and 7-foot-1 center Meyers Leonard advanced to the finals along with Aviano’s Douglas Henderson. Henderson was mobbed by his teammates as well as a few collegians after finishing a dunk in the preliminary round that included him throwing the ball off the wall behind the basket.