LIVE! Evansville

LIVE! Evansville

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois' defensive pressure was too much. So was its backcourt. The Illini forced 25 turnovers, five players finished in double figures and they topped Evansville 99-60 in their season opener at State Farm Center.

Aaron Jordan led Illinois with 19 points, while freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu's debut included 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

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Illinois 68, Evansville 34 — 12:24 left in 1st half

There are now five Illini in double figures. I'd say the rout is on, but it has been for about an hour now. Aaron Jordan still leads the way with 16 points. 

Perhaps the most interesting note at the moment is walk-ons Tyler Underwood and Drew Cayce have both played. Freshmen Alan Griffin and Samba Kane have not.

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Illinois 53, Evansville 22 — Halftime

So it seems like Evansville was picked last in the Missouri Valley Conference for a reason. The Purple Aces had 15 turnovers in the first half and let Illinois shoot 8 of 18 from three-point range. Opting not to cover Aaron Jordan in the corner several times was probably a mistake.

Jordan has 14 points. His career high is 22 points last season against Longwood. He's well on his way — obviously — to topping that. One way he might not is if this game gets any more out of hand. Jordan simply won't be playing at that point.

Anyway, let's see how Illini fans are feeling about the game so far ...

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Illinois 35, Evansville 14 — 7:53 left in 1st half

The Illini are on a 15-4 run since the last update. It's been an Aaron Jordan-fueled run. The senior guard is 3 of 5 from three-point range and leads the Illini with 11 points. Trent Frazier has eight points (2 of 5 from deep), and Ayo Dosunmu just hit his first three-pointer of the game and has seven points.

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Illinois 20, Evansville 10 — 11:24 left in 1st half

Andres Feliz, Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier are in the game at the same time. So ... it's not exactly a surprise that the pace is wild right now. A transition three-pointer from Frazier has the Illini up 10 at the second media timeout of the half. 

Also, who wants to feel old?

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Illinois 9, Evansville 8 — 15:44 left in 1st half

Trent Frazier already has five points and a big time assist.

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Illinois vs. Evansville — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

Starters are as expected for Illinois with Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu and Aaron Jordan in the backcourt and Kipper Nichols and Giorgi Bezhanishvili up front.

Evansville's starters are also the same as from its exhibition. The Purple Aces are going with Shea Feehan, K.J. Riley, Marty Hill, John Hall and Evan Kuhlman.

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Illinois vs. Evansville — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

That's a game changer for Illinois. Particulary since the Purple Aces don't have nearly as effective a backup as their Lithuanian big man. Of course, everyone was looking forward to the matchup between Chatkevicius and Illini freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili.

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Illinois vs. Evansville — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

Expect to see Illinois' three-guard lineup with Andres Feliz, Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier a fair amount tonight against Evansville. From an offensive standpoint, it was probably the Illini's most productive group in the exhibition win against Illinois Wesleyan. 

The speed of that group is what Frazier likes the most.

"We get out in transition and run," the sophomore lefty said. "They both did an unbelievable job scoring in transition. Andres did an incredible job, and he had a phenomenal game. I think that’s one of the biggest he has is scoring in transition. I think it’s impossible to guard him in transition, and Ayo, with his length, he can get to the basket every single time."

Aaron Jordan shifts to more of a frontcourt role with that trio on the floor together. He doesn't mind.

"I hold it down down there," the Illini senior guard said. "I don’t care how big you are. Size doesn’t really matter in our system. ... Teams are definitely going to have trouble guarding it. You have three points guards out there who are very skilled — high IQ guys. What are you going to do with that?"

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Illinois vs. Evansville — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

The composition of Illinois' roster means a number of Illini will be making their official debuts in orange and blue. Including a bunch of freshmen. Are they ready?

"They’re picking things up really fast, and I think they’re really growing," said sophomore guard Trent Frazier, who was in their spot just a year ago. "They were really excited (in the exhibition). I liked their energy. It was their first game out. They were probably nervous a little bit, but getting them out here to get the flow of the game and the college speed I think they realized how fast this game is right now and what it takes to be out here and play."

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Illinois vs. Evansville — 7 p.m., BTN Plus

Illinois coach Brad Underwood had some mixed feelings about his team's play in its exhibition game against Illinois Wesleyan last Friday.

"Some really good things and some not so good things from the exhibition," he said. "Really liked our first half. I thought we were a group that was dialed in. I thought defensively we took them out of everything we wanted to take them out of. Offensively, there were some good things and some things we need to work on and clean up.

"We came out and played about 3 minutes in the second half and then just kind of went through the motions to be very honest. We’ve talked a lot about that. We looked at a lot of different lineups. Overall, I thought there was a lot of growth. I thought our guys were excited. I thought our guys were a little nervous. I thought we did a great job of not fouling. That will be a big part of our game (today). I thought we did it by being very, very aggressive. I loved the 29 turnovers."

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Good evening everybody. In case you somehow missed Kansas showing why it was the preseason No. 1 team or Duke showing why everyone will (or should) vote for the Blue Devils next week, it's college basketball season!

What a start Tuesday at the Champions Classic. Plus Champaign's own Jordan Caroline leading Nevada past BYU with 25 points and 16 rebounds. And yours truly getting burned on a Florida over Florida State hot take. Like surface of the sun burned.

College basketball is here!

And now it's here in Champaign. Illinois will officially open the 2018-19 season in about an hour at State Farm Center. Up first are the Evansville Purple Aces ... an Evansville team that does not have Ryan Taylor or Dru Smith. Both of which, the Illini could still see this season. Taylor (now at Northwestern) for sure. Smith at Missouri? Depends if Dru has the same type of fortune as Mark Smith in getting his year-in-residence required waived.

Tonight's game, though, isn't so much about Evansville. Sure, Purple Aces' big man Dainius Chatkevicius could give Illinois freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili some trouble. And the two of them squaring off only makes public address announcer Tim Sinclair's job harder.

Tonight's game is more about the new-look Illini. How will they fare when the result actually matters. Illinois' exhibition win against Division III Illinois Wesleyan was ... fine. The Illini won by 16 points and got some tremendous guard play at the offensive end from Andres Feliz, Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu (all three in double figures). 

But Illinois gave up too many easy three-pointers to the Titans and certainly too many easy looks around the rim. Those were cornerstone issues for the 2017-18 Illini — particularly teams running layup line offenses. If Illinois Wesleyan can do it ... 

So there's some questions to start answering tonight. Until then, as always, you should catch up on all our Illinois basketball coverage the last few days in The News-Gazette and right here at IlliniHQ.com.

Frazier the 'focal point' for Illini

CHAMPAIGN — Trent Frazier vocalized one of his 2018-19 season goals on Monday. Now Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood is going to hold the sophomore guard to it.

"I'm just going to put it out there because we're all going to hold him accountable to it now because he said it," Underwood said. "He said, 'I want to be All-Defensive Team in the Big Ten.' A year ago, that was far, far, far from anything in Trent's mindset. We've seen tremendous growth."

Frazier did lead all Big Ten freshmen in steals a year ago, and he was one of just five freshmen nationally to lead his team in assists, steals and three-pointers. So just add a full-on defensive breakout to the responsibilities stacked on Frazier's shoulders as Illinois' season officially starts with today's 7 p.m. tipoff against Evansville at State Farm Center.

"He knows it's not all about him, but he knows he's the focal point," Underwood said.

To continue reading, click here. Then check out the rest ...

Asmussen: It's showtime for new group of Illini

Lineups, stats, storylines and our beat writer's pick

De La Rosa cleared for full contact

Underwood wants more from Illini defense

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