Lineups: Southern University at Illinois

Lineups: Southern University at Illinois

Southern at Illinois, 7 p.m. today

Illinois

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Te'Jon Lucas So. 6-1 4.8

G Mark Smith Fr. 6-4 *21.9

G Mark Alstork Gr. 6-5 ^19.0

F Leron Black R-Jr. 6-7 8.1

C Michael Finke R-Jr. 6-10 6.9

FYI: Finke is the Illini's top returning scorer from last year's season opener. The Centennial grad had 12 points and seven rebounds in the 81-62 victory against Southeast Missouri State.

Off the bench

G Trent Frazier Fr. 6-1 *27.6

G Da'Monte Williams Fr. 6-3 *25.6

F Kipper Nichols R-So. 6-6 4.9* — High school

^ — Wright State

Southern University

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Eddie Reese Jr. 6-1 *19.5

G LaQuentin Collins Sr. 6-3 4.8

G Jamar Sandifer So. 6-4 *9.1

F Patrick Smith R-Sr. 6-7 2.8

F Jared Sam Sr. 6-10 13.6FYI: The Jaguars were picked to finish second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference behind defending champs Texas Southern after going 15-18 overall and 10-8 in the conference last season.

Off the bench

F Emanuel Sheperd Sr. 6-8 5.0

G Chris Thomas R-Sr. 6-4 8.5

G Aaron Ray Jr. 6-3 *10.3* — JUCO

DETAILS

Site: State Farm Center (15,544), Champaign.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WHMS 97.5-FM, WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

Series history: First meeting.

FYI: The last 10 Illinois coaches all have at least one thing in common: They won their first game as Illini coach. The last not to? Frank Winters in the 1920-21 season after Illinois dropped a 29-24 game to Millikin on Dec. 18, 1920. J. Craig Ruby started the streak of successful openers in 1922-23.

Scott Richey's storylines

Williams has impressed

Illinois coach Brad Underwood remains as high on freshman guard Da'Monte Williams heading into today's season opener against Southern as he was in early October when practices started. Redshirt junior forward Michael Finke has also been impressed by Williams. "He just listens really well and is always in the right spot offensively and defensively," Finke said. "I think, defensively, he brings an edge — something we don't have as much on the court for us right now. He's trying to make plays. He's somebody you can really rely on out there."

A pleasant surprise

Illinois pursued Mark Alstork as a graduate transfer in the offseason to add a veteran scoring presence on the wing to a team that would have been particularly young in the backcourt without him. While Underwood said Alstork has been pressing offensively, he's been pleasantly surprised by the former Wright State standout at the other end of the court. "He's become an outstanding defender," Underwood said. "He's been a guy that is capable because of his size and because of his quickness and athleticism that can take on the challenge of stopping the other team's best wing player — really 1-3. That was not expected. I didn't see that coming."

Take care of the ball

Turnovers crippled the Illinois offense in the second half of its charity exhibition loss to Eastern Illinois on Nov. 3. The Illini committed 19 turnovers against the Panthers, and sophomore guard Te'Jon Lucas was dinged for the most with six. Taking care of the ball was something Lucas said was addressed in practice this week. "Some were on catches," Lucas said. "Some were silly turnovers we can't make — trying to do too much or trying to take someone one-on-one and not sticking to the system. We didn't run the offense we were supposed to."

Prediction: Illinois 77, Southern 70

If last week's loss to Eastern Illinois proved one thing, it's that the start of the Brad Underwood era at Illinois might be a little choppy. The Illini have made a 180-degree shift in terms of scheme and style from a year ago. Underwood wants aggression on offense and defense. He hasn't gotten it yet. Will he today against the Jaguars?

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