RECAP: Illinois takes down DePaul, 82-73


Austin Yattoni

Illinois forward Michael Finke (43) celebrates with Illinois forward Kipper Nichols (2) after Nichols drew a foul on a layup during the game against DePaul at State Farm Center on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

By Will Gerard, Staff Writer

After a DePaul turnover caused by a strong hedge from freshman Greg Eboigbodin on the defensive end, Illinois sophomore Kipper Nichols exploded to the rim off the outlet pass for a right-handed slam.

Illinois overcame early second-half foul trouble to defeat DePaul 82-73 behind 16 points from Nichols in 25 minutes off the bench. Junior Aaron Jordan also brought down a team-high 9 rebounds.

“I think in the past, when you think of AJ, you think of a shooter, but I think he’s shown early this year that he’s a lot more than a shooter,” Michael Finke said. “He’s been able to drive and rebound it.”

Both teams were plagued with foul trouble as there were 59 fouls called throughout the game. Junior Leron Black fouled out with 1:48 remaining in the second half.

Illinois shot 43-percent from the field, but the team’s three-point woes continued as they shot just 5-23 from behind the arc.

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The contest was held as part of the third annual Gavitt Tipoff Games, which is a week-long series of eight games played between Big Ten and Big East conference opponents during the first full week of each season.

Freshman Mark Smith scored on a left-handed running layup following the first media timeout. Smith finished with 21 points, and was an perfect 12-12 from the free-throw line.

Underwood shared that after the game, the Illini were “laughing in the locker room” about whether they need to start replacing the backboard after Smith’s first shot of each game because of his bad misses due to the fact that he “gets so amped up.”

There was a double technical foul assessed to both teams after pushes were exchanged following a charge drawn by freshman Da’Monte Williams. Sophomore Kipper Nichols and junior DePaul forward Eli Cain were the ones penalized after the scuffle.

The Blue Demons switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone midway through the first half, but primarily went back to man-to-man for the remainder of the game at the start of the second half.

Head coach Brad Underwood felt confident about his team’s offensive approach against the zone after seeing 40 minutes of it against UT Martin on Sunday.

“The thing I love about zones is we’ve got guys in the high post that can play, we’ve got guys that get into the short-corner, but most importantly, it allows us on the offensive glass,” Underwood said. “Everyone thinks it’s about three-point shooting against zones – it helps – but it’s not the end-all.”

The Illini grabbed 19 of 57 rebounds on the offensive end.


After the switch to the zone, Illinois responded with three consecutive three-pointers, and two of which came from Nichols, who was 2-3 from the three-point line. Frazier attempted the other shot from the left corner.

DePaul center Marin Maric scored 12 points for the Blue Demons. Maric got off to a hot start, scoring the first four points his team on a 5-10 shooting performance from the field. Maric was a combined 3-13 from the field in his team’s first two games against Notre Dame and Delaware State, but he fouled out with just over 6 minutes remaining against the Illini.

Many players were in foul trouble as a total of 59 personal fouls were called throughout.

Smith, Black and Te’Jon Lucas were on the bench with three fouls early in the second half. DePaul was in the double bonus for the final 14:22 minutes of action.

The Illini return to action against Marshall at 4 p.m. on Sunday after the second of team’s seven “one-day preps” this season.