Illini sloppy in win over UT-Martin

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) -- On short rest, the Illini survived a second half surge from UT-Martin to improve to 2-0 with a 77-74 win.

Leron Black scored a career high 23 points, and also lead the Illini in rebounds with 8.

Mark Smith added 13 points, with Michael Finke scoring 12.

Leron Black has received plenty of praise from first year Illini coach Brad Underwood, calling him an All Big Ten type player. That was before ever seeing the Memphis native play in a game. The 6-foot-7 forward lived up to the hype scoring a career high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds. On top of it all, the junior only had three personal fouls, something that’s been a challenge for him in the past.

“Just playing hard and trusting the system. He put us all in the right spots to be able to make plays and I'm just trying to stay aggressive," Black said after the game.

“Leron is a very, very hard guard in the 15-17 foot area," head coach Brad Underwood explained. "We got the ball to the baseline early, we got it to the high post, we got it on the block. He's a load."

Black is now averaging 18.5 points and 7 rebounds through the first two games, making him one of the league’s best big men through the first weekend of play. His effort was almost spoiled though against a winless SkyHawks team, who went on a big run at the end of the game to cut the lead to three in the final seconds.

“I think we just played scared," Michael Finke said. "Their press got to us, we turned the ball over a little too much and I think we were just playing scared and not being aggressive and just trying to hold the ball and just kind of waste time or whatever and that's on us players. We've got to be better with the ball and take care of it."

So we’ve seen a blowout and a down to the wire game in the first two wins of the Brad Underwood era. The competition jumps up a level when DePaul comes to Champaign on Friday night. It’ll be the first time the two in-state schools have played each other since 1957.


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