Frosh To Play Big Role In Tuesday Clash

BLOOMINGTON-On Tuesday there will be approximately 17,000 sets of eyes focused on IU freshman center Ben Allen, who very well might get his first career start against No. 7 Illinois at Assembly Hall. But Allen isn't the only freshman who will play an important role in the outcome of this battle of top-10 teams.

BLOOMINGTON-On Tuesday there will be approximately 17,000 sets of eyes focused on IU freshman center Ben Allen, who very well might get his first career start against No. 7 Illinois at Assembly Hall. But Allen isn't the only freshman who will play an important role in the outcome of this battle of top-10 teams.

Illinois Coach Bruce Weber has been riding the early-season success of All-America guard Dee Brown, but freshman guards Jamar Smith and Chester Frazier are also playing important roles in the Illini backcourt. While neither has started a game yet this season, both have made their marks for the 16-1 Illini in the early going.

Smith is the team's third-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game and he's among the nation's leaders in 3-point shooting accuracy (53.8 percent). While the 6-3, 175-pounder is averaging just 19.5 minutes per game, he's knocked down 42 3-pointers in the Illini's first 17 games, just five less than Brown's 47 this season. Smith, though, has made his 42 3-pointers in 53 less attempts than Brown, who is shooting 35 percent from behind the arc.

"Jamar Smith has been very good," said Weber. "He performed very well in the non-conference. He not only shot well, but he was active on defense. He's starting to become a better passer, he's feeding the post, and playing with more confidence."

Among Smith's top efforts in the early going was a 23-point, 8-of-10 shooting effort against Arkansas Little-Rock and a 14-point, 5-of-5 shooting night against Southeast Missouri State.

But the going hasn't been as easy since Big Ten play opened. While Illinois is off to a 2-1 start in its quest to defend its Big Ten title, Smith has averaged only 5.0 points and 17.0 minutes/game in those three contests, and he's missed 13 of the 18 shots he's attempted.

"We got into the Big Ten, and it's a different level," said Weber. "He struggled against Michigan State (in a 60-50 Illinois win) and didn't really get involved. Against Iowa (a 63-48 loss) he played a little more confident, but missed a couple of open looks that he's made before.

"It will take him a little time to adjust to the level of intensity on defense. They give you many free looks – you have to work a little harder to get shots."

Frazier, meanwhile, has played in only 11 games after missing six contests with a torn quadriceps. But he returned to the lineup earlier than originally expected and is averaging 1.5 points, 2.6 assists and 15.7 minutes. The 6-2, 190-pounder will continue to play a backup role to Dee Brown, but his continued improvement could lessen the workload for Brown, who's averaging 39.3 minutes/game.

"We need him to guard, defend, ease the pressure on Dee taking care of the basketball," said Weber. "If he can handle the ball, it allows Dee to run a little bit and maybe get some open jump shots."

Peegs.com Top Stories