Illini Wonk
Monday, January 16, 2006
  Illinois 10; Amaker 0...Davis 3-7
On Saturday, the Illini defeated the Michigan Wolverines 79-74. The loss was the tenth in as many tries for Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, but in the process the Wolverines didn't make it easy for Illinois.

After an 11-point lead at the break, the usually excellent Illinois defense allowed 46 second-half points on 61% shooting. The performance of the Wolverines after half-time took the game down to the wire, where it took two late free throws from Warren Carter and a defensive stand to seal the deal. But, as Jim Spadafore of the Detroit News so elegantly put it: This was not handgrenade practice. Not horse shoes. Close didn't matter.

As has been the case in conference play, the Illini were carried by their seniors. Dee Brown and James Augustine combined for 49 points, including 24 of the last 26. John Brumbaugh's look at the box score shows just how important the two seniors were, especially Augustine who was 9 for 11. With Augustine on the court, Illinois was +16. Neil Milbert had it right, Brown and 'Augie' came to the rescue.

Augustine's impact was especially pronounced late in the second half. When he drew his fourth foul and went to the bench with 8:58 remaining, Michigan went on a 7-0 run to take a 70-69 lead. Augustine came back with 4:01 left in the game and scored the next four points for Illinois to give them the lead for good.

Brian Randle also had a good game and a stat line that impressed Mark Tupper: Nine points, six rebounds, three assists, no turnovers, two blocked shots. His tip-in dunk at the end of the first half was highlight-reel material and gave the Illini their 11-point half-time lead.

Next up: Indiana on Tuesday night

The next test for the Illini looks like one of the toughest of the season. The Illini will head to the other Assembly Hall for a road game against the (10-3, 2-1) Indiana Hooisers. Indiana's only loss in conference play was in their last outing at Michigan State where wins are tough to come by.

John Decker of thinks freshmen guards will play a big role for the Illini. Based on their recent performances that would surprise this blogger. Chester Frazier sat out against Michigan for disciplinary reasons and Jamar Smith's ten-point per game scoring average has been cut in half since conference play started.

The Illini escaped with a 51-49 win at Indiana two years ago and Indiana coach Mike Davis has a comparably good 3-7 record against Illinois. If they're going to get a win this year, they'll need big games from the seniors, a better defensive effort than they had against Michigan and a third scorer to emerge. For the 6:00 game, ESPN will bring out Illini favorites Dick Vitale and Erin Andrews (oh yeah, and Dan Shulman).
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