Illini still looking for first conference win after loss to Wolverines


Austin Yattoni

Illinois forward Kipper Nichols drives to the basket during the game against Southern at the State Farm Center on Nov. 10, 2017.

By Will Gerard, Staff Writer

Illinois overcame a series of slow starts with a lineup change against Michigan on Saturday. Freshman point guard Trent Frazier got his first career start in place of sophomore Te’Jon Lucas.

The Illini led 34-31 at halftime. They forced 12 turnovers while outscoring the Wolverines 22-10 in the paint; however, they struggled to sustain their lead in the second half.

“We played as well in the first half as we have in some time,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “I thought we did a tremendous job of taking Michigan out of what they want to do.”

Michigan (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) defeated Illinois (10-7, 0-4 Big Ten) 79-69 in an early afternoon game at Crisler Center.

Junior forward Moritz Wagner led the Wolverines with 14 points (6-7 FG), a team-high seven rebounds and three blocks.

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Michigan had a balanced scoring attack. Six players scored in double figures, and sophomore guard Zavier Simpson, who scored just five points, recorded a game-high seven assists.

Illinois redshirt sophomore forward Kipper Nichols scored a game-high 17 points (6-11 FG), which tied his previous career-high from earlier this season against Marshall, and he recorded a team-high six rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

Nichols scored two points in each of the team’s previous three contests.

The Illini bench outscored the Wolverines 37-24, and they also finished the game with more points in the paint (48-32).

Michigan outshot Illinois from 3-point range at a mark of 40 percent (8-20), whereas Illinois shot a mere 21 percent (3-14).

Frazier scored eight points, but recorded five turnovers.

Freshman guard Mark Smith and Lucas also each scored eight points. Smith scored all eight of his points early in the first half behind a pair of 3-pointers from nearly the same spot in the deep left corner.

Lucas dished out a team-high six assists, while recording three turnovers.

The Wolverines also earned more trips to the charity stripe, as they shot 19-24 at the free-throw line; the Illini shot 12-14 on free-throw attempts.

Redshirt junior forward Leron Black, who has led the Illini in scoring so far this season, scored seven points (2-6 FG) and snagged four rebounds.

“Leron has been sick,” Underwood said. “He’s fighting a terrible (illness), and he hasn’t been sleeping; we got him to a doctor in Minneapolis, but he’s wasn’t up to speed.”

Freshman forward Greg Eboigbodin scored a career-high 10 points (5-5 FG), following a nine-point scoring outburst in the team’s prior game against Minnesota.

Underwood said he thought that Eboigbodin “challenged shots at the rim, blocked a few shots” and provided “rim protection” and “covered up some mistakes” on the defensive end.

Eboigbodin also secured a career-high six rebounds, and he matched a career-high with two blocks in a career-high 16 minutes.

“One thing Greg does for us with our ball screens, offensively, is that he sprints to rim, so he stresses the defense,” Underwood said. “At some point it’s going to click because we’ll start making threes again. Right now we’re not making them.”


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