Illini Wonk
Monday, February 20, 2006
  Big men lead Illini to win over Indiana
The Illinois big men led their team to a nationally televised 70-58 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers in Champaign. James Augustine led the way posting his ninth double-double of the season, and leading the Illini with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Augustine and the rest of Illinois' "bigs" shot 20-of-29 from the field.

Brian Randle may have had fewer points (12) and rebounds (5) than Augustine, but he had a highlight reel dunk over Indiana's Marco Killingsworth. The dunk was reminiscent of his dunk on Penn State in his freshman year. He also survived a scare in the first half when he went down, grabbed his right wrist, winced in Bruce Weber’s direction and mouthed, “I can’t go.”

Wonk saw a number of encouraging things while watching this game:

1. The aforementioned play of the big men. Augustine had been struggling lately, so his big game was especially encouraging. While Augustine and Randle were the best of the bunch, Shaun Pruitt quietly had a solid game. His shooting was perfect, 3-3 from the floor and 2-2 from the line, and was on his way to another excellent game against the Hooisers when he was hit with his second foul less than four minutes into the game. Coach Bruce Weber said "You have to be happy with our big guys." Indeed.

2. The bench was big. Minus Jamar Smith who was benched for "not taking care of business," Coach Bruce Weber got solid contributions from the bench, which Weber said Illinois needed to grab at least a share of the Big Ten title. Warren Carter played a career-high 25 minutes and scored nine points. Chester Frazier only scored one point, but he added five rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes. Marcus Arnold contributed four points, two rebounds and some solid defense on Killingsworth for seven minutes.

3. Free-throw shooting. Illinois came into the game dead last in the Big Ten in free throw shooting, but put up a 17-22 performance against the Hooisers. The starters were even better at 13-14.

The win keeps Illinois in the Big Ten race and now, Mark Tupper says, Illinois' fate is in its own hands. That fate starts with a game at Michigan tomorrow night, the second time Illinois plays two games in three days in Big Ten play. Last year, it took some late game heroics from Dee Brown and Deron Williams to scrape out a victory. Who will step up this year?
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