SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

Some questions were answered, some remained unanswered after the University of Illinois Fighting Illini took the court for the first time since the national championship game last April in St. Louis.

The Fighting Illini beat visiting South Dakota State 90-65 on Friday night, in a game that featured some reminders of last year (10-21 from 3 point range), and some glimpses of things to come (36 of 90 points scored in the paint). Dee Brown led the Illini with 19 points, James Augustine added 18 and 14 rebounds (the 17th double-double of his career), Rich McBride chipped in 15 on 4-7 shooting from the 3-point arc, and Shaun Pruitt scored 11 and had 9 rebounds.

Last's year's precision passing attack gave way to an offense that is still feeling it's way around. As a result, the Illini had 20 turnovers, countered by only 18 assists. The Illini countered the uncertainty on offense with strong defense, allowing the Jackrabbits to shoot only 38% for the game, and forcing SDSU into 15 turnovers in the first half, and 21 for the game.

Champaign native Steve Holdren led the Jackrabbits in scoring with 28 points, while playing all 40 minutes due to SDSU foul trouble. Ben Beran, who led SDSU in scoring in their game at Kentucky, scored 11, but fouled out midway through the 2nd half. Center Mohamed Berte also fouled out, forcing SDSU to play a small lineup for part of the 1st half and most of the 2nd half.

SDSU head coach Scott Nagy, son of former Illini assistant coach Dick Nagy, and former Illini graduate assistant, was not thrilled with his return to Assembly Hall. "If we had played our best and lost by 25, I'd be OK with that. But we played bad, and lost by 25. I'm not going to be satisfied until we start winning games like this."

Illini head coach Bruce Weber talked about the feeling-out process for his offense. "We'd have 3 or 4 pretty good possessions, then come down, do something, not take care of the ball, make a defensive mistake, go too fast, not take a good shot." "We talk about playing fast, but not hurrying. I think we hurried some tonight." "Dee just tried to do too much. I think he got a little frustrated."

Four newcomers hit the court for the Illini for the first time tonight. Freshmen Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith, redshirt freshman Calvin Brock, and transfer Marcus Arnold all logged time tonight. Smith continued his hot shooting from outside, hitting 3-5 three pointers and logging 9 points in 21 minutes of playing time. Frazier looked solid at the point, scoring 2 points and giving out 4 assists while not having any turnovers in 16 minutes. Brock scored all three of his points from the charity stripe in 10 minutes, and Arnold did not score, but grabbed a rebound and blocked a shot in 9 minutes. Freshman Charles "C.J." Jackson did not play. When asked about a redshirt possibility for Jackson,

Coach Weber commented "CJ has decided not to play the first couple of games. We'll see where we stand from there."

Notes and comments:

Game Notes:

1) Illinois has now won 22 straight at Assembly Hall.

2) Shaun Pruitt recorded career highs in points, rebounds, made shots, minutes, and assists (with one).

3) James Augustine is now 44th on the all time scoring list, passing Perry Range and Glynn Blackwell

4) Dee Brown in now 16th on the all time scoring list, passing Dave Downey.

5) Illinois had four players in double figures.

6) Illinois won the rebounding battle 40-28.

Comments:

1) Our guards aren't seeing interior openings as they develop. It seemed like the guards were about a half-second behind seeing the interior guys as they flashed open, leading to several turnovers and missed opportunities.

2) Rich McBride had his best all-around game as an Illini. Not only was he very effective on the offensive end shooting the three, but he had two very nice drives, one that ended in a midrange jumper, and one that resulted in a layup. He also handled the ball well, dished out 4 assists (tied for the team lead), and was the only effective defender on Steve Holdren on the other end of the court.

3) Shaun Pruitt was very aggressive in the paint. Last year, I though Shaun tried to use every move he knew every time he got the ball. Tonight, he let the game come to him, felt the double-teams coming and passed out of them, and went strong to the hoop when he had the opportunity. James Augustine joked during the post-game press conference that Shaun actually put up two righty hooks, and "that should make coach happy."

4) Brian Randle disappeared for extended periods tonight. There were 5 minute spans where he simply did nothing to create scoring. He had several opportunities to create, and was satisfied to pass the ball back out front. Defensively, he played well, but he was no really a factor on the offensive end.

5) The lob dunk from Chester to Warren was a thing of beauty. Warren showed great athleticism getting that ball from below the rim and buggy-whipping it. Chester seemed to be looking to make some things happen later in the second half-he saw Calvin on the break before anyone on the bench ever saw it.

Stay tuned to Illiniboard.com for a recap of the post-game press conferences from James, Dee, and Shaun, and Coach Weber's post-game comments.


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