Smith leads Illini to win

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Online Poster

By Lucas Deal

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Jamar Smith show.

With Illinois struggling to find any offense against Arkansas-Little Rock, freshman guard Jamar Smith exploded for a career-high 23 points – including six three-pointers – as the Illini survived a rocky start to defeat Arkansas-Little Rock 75-49 before a near capacity crowd Monday at the Assembly Hall.

Clinging to a 41-39 lead midway through the second half after a 7-0 Trojans run, Smith ignited the Illini on a 19-0 run to pull away.

After Dee Brown made one of two free throws, Smith hit fellow Peoria Richwoods teammate Brian Randle in the lane for a layup to push the lead to five. Brown then forced a turnover and found Smith for a three on the right wing and an eight-point lead. Smith then recorded a steal on the ensuing possession, hitting Randle again on the fastbreak to push Illinois’ lead to 49-39.

Afterward, the outcome was never in doubt.

“I felt really confident,” Smith said. “I’ve been working really hard and it’s all starting to pay off.”

Head coach Bruce Weber was also impressed by Smith’s play.

“You can’t ask for more from a freshman,” he said. “He’s really added to his game.”

Frazier Sits Out

While Smith may have been the star of Monday night’s game, fellow freshman guard Chester Frazier sat out with a thigh contusion.

Weber said the injury occurred during pregame warmups and is unsure if Frazier will be ready for Thursday night, when the Illini host Georgetown.

“I don’t know (if he’ll be ready),” Weber said. “I’ll be honest, if you listen to the trainers then he probably won’t.”

Illini Crash the Boards

Despite only having a two-rebound advantage at halftime, the Illini dominated the glass in the second half, finishing with a 41-28 rebounding edge in the game.

Little Rock head coach Steve Shields was not happy with his team’s effort on the glass.

“That’s an area we like to lead in,” Shields said.

The Trojans outrebounded Michigan State by four on Saturday.

Weber was happy with the effort on the glass in the second half.

“In the first half we played pretty well, but we didn’t box out,” he said. “In the second half, not only did we stop them, we kept them off the boards.”

Auggie Named Big Ten Player of the Week

On the strength of two solid performances last week against North Carolina and Xavier, Illini forward James Augustine was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Monday.

Indiana’s Marco Killingsworth was also honored.

Augustine scored 13 points with 13 rebounds against the Tar Heels and tied a career-high with 23 points against Xavier.

He scored 12 points and added seven rebounds against Little Rock on Monday.