The Illini showed their running game consistently for the first time tonight, especially in the second half. Texas Southern coach Ronnie Courtney: "They were a blur. They were the fastest team we'll see all year. Even their big guys were fast." The Illini also showed glimpses of the type of ball sharing that last year's team raised to an art form, dishing out 23 assists on 35 made field goals. Brian Randle and Dee Brown each had 5 assists.
The Illini were led in scoring by Dee Brown, who had 14 points, James Augustine netted 13 points, Jamar Smith added 12, and Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold both reached double digits in scoring for the first time in their careers with 11 and 10 points respectively. Every player on the Illini roster scored tonight, with walkon Chris Hicks seeing his first Illini game time and logging 2 free throws afer getting fouled on a drive.
The Illini outrebounded Texas Southern 41-32, but early in the game, the Tigers were much more aggressive on the glass than the Illini. ""We did a poor job of blocking out in the first half," commented Illini head coach Bruce Weber. "We weren't putting a body on anybody, and they were getting some offensive boards." The Illini were led in rebounding by Warren Carter with 8. "I like that Warren stuck his nose in there tonight…and that nose isn't totally healthy," commented Coach Weber.
The Illini also took much better care of the ball, with only 10 turnovers for the game. Freshman Chester Frazier continues to shine at the point, adding 4 assists to bring his season total to 10, while committing his first turnover of the season. Frazier was also involved in two of the highlight plays of the game, diving out of bounds to save a lose ball back to Shaun Pruitt in the first half, and setting up Calvin Brock on a fast break alley oop in the second half.
The Illini led 46-30 at the half, and broke the game open with a 13-2 run to start the second half, and outscored TSU 33-6 over the first 12 minutes of the second period. "This was a little bit of a feel-good win" said head coach Bruce Weber. "We ran much better, and got some guys some minutes". Every Illini player with the exception of Hicks saw double digit minutes in the game tonight, and the starters were all on the bench by the 6 minute mark in the second half.
The Illini shot 49% from the field, but struggled in the first half from the 3 point line by hitting only 29%, before finishing the game at 38%. The Illini also struggled from the free throw line again tonight, hitting only 60% of their chances from the charity stripe.
"Now we have to take it on the road," commented Coach Weber. The Illini face Wichita State on Friday in South Padre Island, TX in a continuation of the South Padre Invitational. Wichita State is 3-0, having defeated Texas-Pan American 97-66. The Shockers feature former Illini Kyle Wilson, who transferred to Wichita after the 2003-2004 season.
Notes and comments:
1) The Illini have won 24 consecutive home games, and are 81-3 at home over the last 6+ seasons.
2) The 93 points by Illinois are the most since posting 93 against Valpo last December.
3) The 34 point margin of victory is the largest since defeating Northwestern by 36 points last February.
4) The Illini scored 49 points in the paint.
5) Dee hit double digits in scoring in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Brian Randle showed a few more glimpses of what we were expecting of him this season. Brian played with the highest level of energy we've seen all year, and had a steal and two blocks early in the first half. The steal resulted in a breakaway dunk that got the crowd into the game.
Halfway through the second half, the Illini started a little bit of a run and gun game. Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith were pushing the action, and the Illini bigs showed the ability to get up and down the court with the guards.
Marcus Arnold continues to improve. He showed a much smoother shooting stroke tonight, was strong on the boards, and was able to hold his own on defense against TSU's Matthew Bell, a 6'11", 320 lb. center who bears an uncanny resemblance to Oliver Miller.