LIVE! Augustana

LIVE! Augustana

CHAMPAIGN — Slow second half start aside, Illinois rolled to its fifth straight victory thanks to a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double by Michael Finke in a 96-62 win against Augustana. Leron Black finished with 15 points for the Illini, Mark Smith added 13 and Aaron Jordan (12) and Trent Frazier (10) also chipped in among the double-digit scorers.

Be sure to check out Thursday's News-Gazette and right here at IlliniHQ.com for more on the Illini victory.

Illinois 80, Augustana 53 — 7:30 left in 2nd half

Michael Finke and Aaron Jordan salvaged the second half for Illinois. It's doubtful Augustana would have been able to fully erase its halftime deficit, but the Illini were doing all they could to help the Vikings in that regard. But a couple made three-pointers from Jordan and a series of dunks (plus much better rebounding) from Finke has the Illini pulling away.

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Illinois 51, Augustana 30 — Halftime

A few thoughts and stats from the first half ...

— Mark Smith continues to be able to score at the rim at will. He has 10 points and is one of three Illini in double figures.

— Leron Black is leading Illinois with 15 points. However, the redshirt junior forward has zero rebounds, and the Illini are getting out-rebounded 19-12 by Augustana. 

— Michael Finke is the third Illini in double figures thanks to 3 of 5 shooting from three-point range. Illinois is 7 of 14 from deep as a team.

— Augustana has 18 turnovers. Illinois has scored 21 points off them.

— While Smith is as close to a sure thing at the rim as anyone, Trent Frazier did not endear himself to Underwood with multiple missed layups in the first half. One stellar defensive possession, though, at least got Frazier back in his coach's good graces for a time.

— Da'Monte Williams will lead Illinois in charges taken this season. You heard it here first.

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Illinois 32, Augustana 19 — 7:57 left in 1st

The last 4 minutes have seen Illinois make two more three-pointers and also not miss any. The fac the Illini are shooting 70 percent from beyond the arc remains the biggest story so far tonight. 

In a close second (like always)? Brad Underwood is not going to suffer what he perceives as anything but 100 percent effort lightly. Make a mistake, and you get a guaranteed seat on the bench. 

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Illinois 21, Augustana 11 — 11:58 left in 1st

Forget for a moment, Illinois is 2 of 8 from inside the three-point line. If that had been the case in previous games, it's kind of doubtful the Illini would have any points at the moment. But tonight? Illinois is actually making its three-pointers, shooting 5 of 8 from deep.

Michael Finke and Mark Alstork (on a pair of line drives, but whatever, they went in) are leading the way for the Illini. Alstork has eight points and Finke six as Illinois has built an early double-digit lead.

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Illinois vs. Augustana — 6 p.m., BTN+

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Illinois vs. Augustana — 6 p.m., BTN+

I wouldn't be surprised if Augustana threw some zone at Illinois tonight. It's a way the Vikings can try to corral the Illini. Harder to get completely beat off the dribble when you're not playing man-to-man defense. Of course, facing a zone wouldn't necessarily be struggle-inducing for Illinois.

"We’ve been great against it," Illini coach Brad Underwood said. "I think we’re about 1.3 points per possession against zones. We saw 40 minutes of it against (UT Martin), so we’ve seen a ton of it. The thing I love about zones is we’ve got guys in the high post who can play, we’ve got guys who can get in the short corner, but more importantly it allows us on the offensive glass."

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Illinois vs. Augustana — 6 p.m., BTN+

This is worth mentioning. Division II Chaminade just rolled California today in the Maui Invite, beating the Golden Bears by 24. The same Cal team that had a ranked Wichita State on the ropes in the second half a day ago (down 18) before ultimately losing to the Shockers.

So ... just because Augustana is a Division III team doesn't make them a pushover. Just be aware.

Also, be aware of the fact N-G photographer Stephen Haas could have some cool photos from tonight's game. Check out his setup in the tweet below.

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Illinois vs. Augustana — 6 p.m., BTN+

Brad Underwood took issue with one thing — at least serious issue — from Illinois' Sunday win against Marshall. The first-year Illini coach said his team was active for 34 minutes against the Thundering Herd. That other six minutes? That's why he called a timeout late in the second half to, well, express his displeasure with his team.

"We’ve got to learn to finish," Underwood said. "We’ve got to learn to make free throws. And you’ve got to learn to play until the final horn. There’s no substitute for that. 

"To not finish the game the right way? We take a lot of pride in working really hard in practice and being every day guys. It’s a winning mentality. I’m going to demand that, and I expect that. We don’t play according to the score in terms of our effort. Our effort has to be consistent every single minute of the game."

So look to see how Illinois plays tonight against Augustana. Will it be a full 40 minutes worth of effort? 

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OK, first of all ... is Thanksgiving Eve a thing? Because Illinois fans might get an early start to being thankful should the Illini handle their business against Division III Augustana.

Should the Vikings pull the upset of all upsets, well, there are still plenty of things to be thankful for other than basketball like family and friends. They're at the top of my list. But I'll spend by Thanksgiving Eve rigth there with you, as Illinois and Augustana tip off in an hour here at State Farm Center.

The Illini (4-0) have played more good basketball than bad in the first two weeks of the season. Still, first-year coach Brad Underwood sees plenty of room for improvement. Namely in incorporating more of his offensive and defensive systems. The more the Illini know, the better they can be on the court.

Maybe that happens tonight against Augustana. The Illinois coaches wouldn't mind. Tuesday's practice was spent on adding more wrinkles to the Illini offense — getting a step or two closer to being able to run the counters and reads to Underwood's scheme.

But first ... the Vikings. Yes, Illinois has the advantage in size and skill and athleticism. Yet overlooking Augustana — a team Underwood spoke highly of a day ago — isn't the path to take. Should Illinois win? Yes, but it could be an uglier kind of win if the Illini take the Vikings lightly. 

Let's everyone just cross their fingers for fewer fouls called than in the last two Illinois games. Even a 6 p.m. tipoff won't help at least this media member with an early deadline on Thanksgiving Eve. In-game updates might be fewer and farther between, but plenty will be available postgame here at IlliniHQ.com and in Thursday's News-Gazette.

But until tipoff, catch up on all things Illini basketball this week:

Connections with Augustana got game on schedule

Post-practice video with Brad Underwood from Illinois' prep day

Lineups, storylines and a pick from the beat writer

Chat recap: Plenty of Illini hoops talk

Kipper Nichols was key in Sunday's win against Marshall

The Illini were dialed in when they beat the Herd