Underwood to Finke: 'Worry about defensive end'

Underwood to Finke: 'Worry about defensive end'

CHAMPAIGN — Michael Finke had a single point, two fouls and four rebounds when the first half of Monday night's game at Nebraska came to an end.

The only statistic among those three Illinois coach Brad Underwood concerned himself with was the last. Underwood hasn't wavered in his support of Finke as a shooter and scorer. That he had four rebounds — split equally offensive and defensive — was what he wanted the 6-foot-10 redshirt junior forward to focus on in the midst of a rough patch offensively.

Finke finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.

The biggest play, of course, was his four-point play that had Illinois on the precipice of its first Big Ten win of the season. His overall play, though, is what the Illini (10-9, 0-6 Big Ten) need more of as they continue conference play at 8 p.m. today at Wisconsin (9-10, 2-4).

"Mike has a tendency to worry about whether his ball goes in or not," Underwood said. "Take the focus off that. Do all the other things. Go see how many rebounds you can grab.

"Worry about the defensive end. See how many charges you can take and see how many shots you can block. I think when you do that sometimes it just frees you up mentally and the ball has a chance to go in."

That's what Finke said he did Monday at Nebraska after talking with the Illinois coaches during timeouts.

He missed his only two shots in the first half, but was 6 of 7 from the field in the second half while adding six rebounds and his lone assist.

"I think I got my mind wrapped around other things I can control," Finke said. "I can't worry about what's happening when the shots aren't going in. I can keep guarding and keep defending ball screens and going to get as many rebounds as I can."

Even though Finke managed that against the Cornhuskers, it's not always as easily done as said.

"I feel like I'm a great shooter, and when it's not going in with all the hard work I put in it can be frustrating at times," he said. "But I can't let if affect me. I'm here for the team and have to do what I can to help the team win."

Finke's pair of three-pointers at Nebraska were his first in Big Ten play this season having entered the game 0 for 12 from beyond the arc in Illinois' first five conference games. He shot 37.3 percent from beyond the arc across the Illini's 13 nonconference games. The confidence Underwood said he saw in Finke against the 'Huskers was the difference.

"He got his looks, and he didn't hesitate," Underwood said. "I've never told him not to shoot. I ran plays for him to shoot it. Every time he gets a look, I think it's going in no matter what his percentages say."