Cruise control: Illini stomp Southern in season opener

Cruise control: Illini stomp Southern in season opener

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CHAMPAIGN — This one counted. And Illinois played like it a week after dropping a charity exhibition game to Eastern Illinois.

The difference Friday night against Southern in the Illini's season opener? An offense that attacked the rim, and a defense that kept the Jaguars from running their offense and forced turnovers. Both of which carried over from the first half to the second in a 102-55 victory in front of a State Farm Center crowd of 14,637 energized by an exciting brand of basketball.

"Last Friday was a little bit humbling, and that's not to take anything away from Eastern," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "I thought we did a tremendous job of preparing to win this week. That's why I'm really, really proud of our guys.

"I knew it was going to be different (Thursday) just the way we prepared to win. We had a good week of practice. There's no question we pushed them."

The Illini answered that challenge. Mark Alstork put up a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in his Illinois debut. Aaron Jordan matched him with 17 points off the bench.

"I think we just brought energy on both sides of the floor," Alstork said. "We came to practice this week, dominated practice and it showed (Friday)."

Kipper Nichols and Leron Black each registered 14 points, and Michael Finke added 12 for the type of balanced offense Underwood intends to have throughout this season.

"I truly hope that's something that you see," Underwood said. "I think that's the one thing our offense can breed is unselfish basketball. I think you can see a lot of options."

Illinois (1-0) will be back on the court at 5 p.m. Sunday against Tennessee-Martin. Matching the energy and execution — surpassing it even — is the goal.

"It is a good start, but we can't settle for that," Jordan said. "We're going for more each and every game."

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Moonpie wrote on November 11, 2017 at 8:11 am

They beat a nobody. Woo-hoo!

The Gazoo Cheerleaders go crazy!

Prehistoric Tate will strut, flap his feathers, and crow.

But it wasn't the Big Ten.

When standards are low, reactions are high.