Augustine, Brown end careers with milestone victory

By Lucas Deal

There was still a lot of basketball to play.

Only 33 seconds into the second half, Illinois senior James Augustine had just picked up his third foul. Augustine had played only four minutes because of fouls in the first half and it looked like he would be heading back to the sideline early again at the start of the second.

Senior Day or not, most coaches would have felt it would be too risky to leave in him in; that a fourth foul would be too much to overcome.

But Bruce Weber isn’t most coaches.

Weber defiantly stuck with his senior, and 19 minutes and only one foul later, his risk found its reward as Augustine and fellow senior Dee Brown passed Nick Smith for first place on Illinois’ all-time wins list with victory number 111, a 71-59 win over No. 20 Iowa on Saturday at Assembly Hall.

“I didn’t even flinch,” Weber said of leaving Augustine in the game. “He’d sat too long already; there was no way we could take him out.”

Augustine responded to Weber’s decision by scoring 10 of his 12 points in the second half and, along with Brown, willed the No. 8 Illini (23-5, 9-5) to the milestone victory in the final home game of their illustrious careers.

“I can’t really even talk right now,” a visibly shook Brown said afterwards. “I’m going to miss playing here in front of this crowd and putting on the Illinois jersey.”

“I wish I could stay another four years.”

Augustine was equally touched.

“It means a lot to me to have played in front of this crowd,” he said. “To be able to play at this level and with these teammates has been special.”

Brown finished with six points and nine assists and Augustine also had seven rebounds, yet neither player looked good at the start.

A nervous Augustine missed so badly on his first two free throws that Weber couldn’t help but laugh, telling his big man they would need to stop the game to fix the backboard because he had thrown up bricks.

Brown wasn’t much better, missing all six of his shots in the first half as the Illini took a 34-29 lead.

Augustine admitted to being nervous, while Brown confessed that he just “didn’t make shots.” Turns out that’s what the rest of the team was for.

Rich McBride led the Illini with 15 points and Brian Randle added 13, while the low post duo of Shaun Pruitt and Marcus Arnold combined for 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Greg Brunner led the Hawkeyes (20-8, 9-5) with a season-high 27.

“Randle and McBride were the difference,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “We did well against the two seniors; it was what the other guys did.”

Weber was impressed by the play of his bench.

“Marcus had his best game of the year and Jamar finally made a shot in February,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get that on the road.”

The win pulls the Illini into a tie with the Hawkeyes for second place in the conference, one game behind Ohio State. But Brown said that shouldn’t matter.

“We are the team (to beat),” he said confidently. “It’s our crown to defend and we still have a legit shot to do big things.”