LIVE! Marshall

LIVE! Marshall

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois turned its growing double-digit lead at the end of the first half into a major win Sunday against Marshall, pulling away for a 91-74 victory against the Thundering Herd.

Kipper Nichols led the Illini with 17 points and 11 rebounds — his first career double-double — while Leron Black chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds of his own. Michael Finke and Mark Smith joined them in double figures with 13 points apiece, as Illinois improved to 4-0 on the season.

Be sure to check out Monday's News-Gazette and right here at IlliniHQ.com for more from the Illinois win.

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Illinois 74, Marshall 55 — 7:59 left in 2nd

Four Illini are in double figures after Michael Finke knocked down his second three-pointer of the game. He's got 10 for Illinois. Kipper Nichols and Leron Black lead the Illini with 15 points apiece, and Mark Smith has 13. Illinois is being helped by Marshall shooting just 1 of 6 so far in the second half.

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Illinois 58, Marshall 40 — 15:52 left in 2nd

Illinois has 10 more shots than Marshall in the first 4-plus minutes of the second half. Mainly because the Illini, although missing some shots around the rim, are dominating the offensive glass. Illinois has a 16-3 advantage on the Herd when it comes to offensive rebounds, which should make Brad Underwood happy. He'd probably be a little happier if they finished a little better at the hoop.

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Illinois 46, Marshall 36 — Halftime

A few things that have caught my eye with the Illini leading by 10 at the break ...

— Kipper Nichols with some nice carryover from Friday's game. He's got 11 points to lead the Illini to go with four rebounds (just one behind Leron Black for the team lead).

— Aaron Jordan continues to just do a little bit of everything for Illinois. He might just have two points, but he's got a pair of steals and four rebounds. 

— Leron Black, not in foul trouble in this game, has eight points and five rebounds. That's the kind of production Illinois got from him in the first two games of the season and will continue to need.

— Illinois has already made three three-pointers. In 10 attempts, but it's still more makes than usual.

— Marshall will hang around in this game because of their ability to hit contested three-pointers. That included one just before the halftime buzzer by Jarrod West. The Illini had the play covered. West made it anyway.

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Illinois 35, Marshall 32 — 3:26 left in 1st

The Illini might have the lead, but Brad Underwood is not too pleased with his team. Mark Smith has caught a solid portion of that displeasure, especially every time he hasn't hit the offensive glass. All of the Illini aren't cutting enough on the offensive end either. 

But Illinois still has the lead. Most of that has been its defense stepping up — at least until Marshall hit consecutive three-pointers (one truly contested by Trent Frazier) to cut the Illini lead to three points.

All kinds of teachable moments out there for Underwood.

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Marshall 17, Illinois 16 — 11:44 left in 1st

The pace of this game is operating at just short of out of control through the first 8 minutes. A surprise? No, not really. Both teams want to push the tempo. But doing so at the detriment of, you know, good basketball — which this game has bordered on at times — isn't ideal.

Marshall has already shot nine three-pointers and made four. Illinois isn't actually struggling in that regard, shooting 2 of 5 so far. That's an improvement compared to the first three games.

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Illinois vs. Marshall — 4 p.m., BTN+

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Illinois vs. Marshall — 4 p.m., BTN+

Turnovers have been something of an issue for Illinois the past two games. After turning the ball over just 10 times in the season opener against Southern, the Illini have committed 18 turnovers in each of the last two games.

"They’re silly," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "So many of them are silly and unforced. They’re turnovers that really come at inopportune times. They’ve got to learn to trust the process and trust what we do. We don’t have to go crazy. We don’t have to score every time we touch the ball. We have to let the offense work for us. It’s too much, too soon, in terms of turnovers."

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Illinois vs. Marshall — 4 p.m., BTN+

A few pregame observations from my courtside home for today's game ...

— Illinois will wear its orange alternates against Marshall. The Thundering Herd are in green shorts right now, but they look like just warmup attire.

— If you only look at the back of their heads, Ot Elmore and his brother (Marshall scoring leader Jon Elmore, he's averaging 28.3 ppg through three games) looks like Illinois quarterback Chayce Crouch.

— There's lots of dunking during Illinois' first round of pregame warmups. My two takeaways: Pretty sure Da'Monte Williams had his head above the rim on one dunk, and I could watch Greg Eboigbodin just dunk forever. His long arms make for some truly powerful looking finishes.

— Illinois made a lot of three-pointers during warmups. Maybe they'll do it in the game. Marshall's going to shoot a ton of them and is hitting at 33.7 percent. That's not that good, but it's better than the Illini's 23.1 percent three-point shooting.

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Illinois vs. Marshall — 4 p.m., BTN+

If I had one hope for today's game, it would be fewer fouls are called than the 59 during Friday night's Illinois-DePaul game. For one, so many whistles dragged that game out.

For another, a similar number of fouls today could derail two teams that like to play an uptempo style. There was no real flow Friday. No flow today could turn what on paper is an intriguing matchup into what happened between the Illini and Blue Demons — a slugfest, punch-counterpunch game in the words of Illinois coach Brad Underwood.

Underwood was not overly thrilled with the number of fouls the Illini were whistled for Friday. He'll fight for some fouls, but not all.

"We made some really silly fouls," Underwood said. "Fouling is something my teams have probably done too much of to be quite honest, but these were some passive fouls — non-aggressive on the glass.

"The way we play defensively, teams are going to try to drive us and we’ve got to learn how to play without fouling. Try to get those teams to make layups and shoot contested shots without committing fouls."

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Illinois vs. Marshall — 4 p.m., BTN+

I suppose the first thing to mention is today's game will not be televised. It is available on BTN Plus, but that's an extra subscription service. Next week's two games will also be streamed only.

That online-only broadcast, however, will feature Brian Barnhart and Deon Thomas on the call. Since Illinois students are on fall break (which extends through next week), the student-led broadcast is not available. 

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How about one final LIVE! Report to wrap up this weekend of Illinois sports? It's been a busy few days for the Illini, which concludes — at least as far as this weekend goes — with today's Illinois-Marshall game here at State Farm Center.

Beat writer Scott Richey (you guessed it, still me) will be courtside providing you plenty of pregame, in-game and postgame updates. Tipoff is in about 90 minutes between the Illini and the Thundering Herd.

Anyway, back to the busy weekend of Illinois athletics. Among the winners? Brad Underwood's Illini on Friday against DePaul in a game 60 years in the making. Fellow first-year hoops coach Nancy Fahey also guided the Illini women to a win on Sunday, making them 2-0 on the week after beating Chicago State on Wednesday.

Monster win for the Illinois volleyball team on Saturday, knocing off No. 7 Minnesota a day after losing to No. 12 Wisconsin. The victory against the Golden Gophers is exactly what the Illini needed for their NCAA tournament résumé.

Not among the winners was the Illinois football team. The Illini got thrashed in Columbus by No. 8 Ohio State.

So, it's up to the Illinois men's basketball team to end the weekend on a high note. One thing is probably certain. Plenty of points will be scored this late afternoon/early evening at State Farm Center. The Illini boast a more prolific offense with Underwood, and the Herd are firmly in the "bombs away from 3" camp.

But since you've got some time until tipoff on this chilly Sunday afternoon, grab a blanket, curl up on the couch and check out our latest Illini hoops coverage:

Lineups, storylines and a pick: Illini vs. Thundering Herd

Loren Tate's Sunday column on Illinois-DePaul

Postgame video with Brad Underwood and Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao

Postagme video with Illini juniors Aaron Jordan and Michael Finke

Notes from Friday's Illini victory

How the Illini graded out vs. DePaul

Mark Smith's poise a key to Illinois win

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