Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/24/11

It was an all Land of Lincoln title game in the 2011 Cancun Challenge title game. The Illinois Fighting Illini fell behind the Illinois State Redbirds 49-48 down the stretch but rallied in the end and hung on to win 63-59.

The Moon Place Resort in Cancun, Mexico houses a very small gym which was the setting for the Illini claiming a tournament victory. The cold prairies of Bloomington and Champaign, IL are a very different setting from the warm beaches of Cancun; and these college kids came there for business, to play college basketball, not to drink and sunbathe.

Sam Maniscalco led the Illini with 14 points; following up the big night he had in the tourney semi-final win over Richmond (season high 19 points). The Illini played their most complete game of the young 5-0 season vs. the Spiders, as Meyers Leonard had a career high 22 points and 12 rebounds. He also added 6 blocks, and so far it’s looking like the big seven footer should lead the Big Ten in that category this season.

His follow-up vs. ISU was less inspirational. Sure, he was just two boards shy of a double-double; but he shot just 3-9. He’s critical to the success of Illinois this season, as is Brandon Paul, who scored 12, adding 6 assists, but struggled with an ugly 2-11 from the floor.

The Redbirds’ Jackie Carmichael led the game with 17 points. It was the first loss of the season for ISU; who knocked off Rutgers from the Big East in their semi-final match.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

 

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