Finke, Jordan Lead Illini Past NC Central, 86-73


Published on November 27 2017 6:41 am
Last Updated on November 27 2017 6:51 am
Written by Millie Lange

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — First year Illinois coach Brad Underwood spent the past week pushing junior forward Michael Finke to shoot the ball more often.

Finke listened.

The budding star scored 22 points and teammate junior guard Aaron Jordan added 16 to lead Illinois over North Carolina Central 86-73 Friday at State Farm Center.

"I barked and got aggressive with Michael all week," Underwood said after the game. "He listened, although I did get mad at him for taking a 3 when we had an easy layup opportunity. But, well, he listened to me."

Reggie Gardner Jr. scored 18 points for N.C. Central, and Zacarry Douglas and Jordan Perkins added 11 points each.

Illinois (6-0) looked lackluster early, allowing the Eagles (2-5) to mount an 8-0 run midway through the first half to take a 35-34 lead at the half. N.C. Central had its own issues early, including turning the ball over on its first two possessions of the game.

Jordan hit a three-pointer less than a minute into the second half, which opened the floodgates for Illinois. He and Finke traded baskets for the next three minutes as the Illini went on an 8-0 run, which proved too much for the Eagles. Finke tossing in a couple of dunks for good measure.

Finke and Jordan were deadly from beyond the 3-point line in the second half. Finke went 5 of 11 from 3, but sank three in the early minutes of the second half that seemed to fire up the Illini's offense. Jordan went 4 of 5 from downtown, with three of them coming during the opening seven minutes of the final half.

Underwood gave sophomore guard Te'Jon Lucas credit for his smothering defense as the second half started.

"Te'Jon made that happen," Underwood said. "He took control in the locker room at halftime and on the floor. Finke and Jordan got the points, but Te'Jon drove the bus tonight."

"Te'Jon's defense really sparked our offense to start that second half," Finke said. "And our teammates found us for the shots."

Despite the win, Underwood and his players weren't thrilled with the team's performance, with Wake Forest and Northwestern waiting in the wings.

"Part of my responsibility is to get the players ready mentally, and I let them down," Underwood said. "We need to step it up before we play the upcoming games on the road. Still, I'm looking forward to the big boy games."

Jordan agreed.

"Tonight, it was poor execution and missed assignments," the junior guard said. "We need to practice hard this week and turn that around, especially with the Power 5 games we have coming up."

Illinois hits the road and will meet Wake Forest on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.


• Illinois is 6-0 for the first time since winning its first six games of the 2014-15 season.

• Illinois scored 52 points in the second half, a season-best, including a season-high seven second-half three-pointers.

• Illinois was 12-of-29 shooting from the three-point line (41.4 percent), a season best for threes made.

• Illinois had 20 assists and 10 turnovers. N.C. Central had 10 assists and 20 turnovers, leading to a 28-10 Illini advantage in points off turnovers.

• The Illini have forced 20+ turnovers in two straight games (29 vs. Augustana and 20 vs. North Carolina Central).

• Illinois had its first 20+ assist game since 1/11/17 vs. Michigan (21)

• Illinois trailed at the half, 35-34.


• RS Junior forward Michael Finke scored a season-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-11 shooting from three-point range. His five threes tied a career high (5 vs. Minnesota 3/9/16).

• Over the last two games, Finke is averaging 21.0 points per game on 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) shooting. Finke has shot 52.4 percent (11-21) from three-point range in the last three games.

• Junior guard Aaron Jordan scored 16 points, one away from his career high (17 vs. Southern 11/10/17). Jordan had a career-high six field goals made on just seven attempts. Jordan is 8-of-9 shooting from three-point range in the last two games. His only miss was blocked.

• In six games this season, Jordan is 15-of-23 for behind-the-arc (.652). All of last season (24 games), Jordan was 6-of-20 (.300) from three-point range.

• RS Junior forward Leron Black scored 12 points, his fifth double-digit game of the season. He also had a team-high eight rebounds.

EIU Women

At Philadephia

The Eastern Illinois University Panthers fell on the road to Delaware in the second game of the Saint Joseph's Thanksgiving Tournament. EIU struggled from the field resulting in a 66-37 loss to the Blue Hens.

Grace Lennox was named to the All-Tournament Team and was the Panthers leading scorer with 16 points as EIU shot a season low 18.8 percent from the field and 2-of-21 from behind the arc. Lennox connected on four field goals and shot 77.8 percent from the free throw line. She also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists.

The Blue Hens finished with 57 rebounds to the Panthers 41 collecting seven of their 16 offensive boards in the first quarter. Delaware's Nicole Enabosi finished with a double-double and game-high of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Bailey Kargo added 13 points.

EIU's bench scored 11 points of the teams 37. Jalsiha Smith finished with four points and grabbed eight rebounds. Karle Pace, Taylor Steele, and Halle Stull also connected from the field for the Panthers. Steele finished with a game high three steals.

Jennifer Nehls added seven points in EIU's loss while Grace McRae grabbed a career high of eight rebounds.


Friday's Game

Mack Smith scored ten early points and seven total Eastern Illinois players would finish in double figures on Friday night as the Panthers rolled over Fontbonne University, 96-44, in Lantz Arena.
The Panthers improved to 2-3 on the season and will play at Marquette on Monday night.  Fontbonne is 0-2.
Smith and Jajuan Starks combined for the Panthers first eight points as EIU opened with an 11-0 run on a Terrell Lewis 3-pointer with 16:30 to play.  Thomas Ritter would score Fontbonne’s first points at the 16:09 mark.
Smith would sink his second 3-pointer of the half at the 11:34 mark to put EIU up 21-6 as he was the first player to reach double figures in the game.  The freshman would leave the game midway through the first half after running hard into a defender.  He was 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from 3-point range to finish with ten points.   As a team EIU would go 9-of-21 from 3-point range in the game.
Starks joined Smith in double figures for EIU in the first half scoring ten of his 14 points in the opening 20 minutes as EIU built a comfortable 56-18 lead.  The Panthers shot 64 percent in the opening half and finished at 61 percent for the game.
In the second half EIU half Montell Goodwin, Michael Chavers, Justice Green, Muusa Dama and Lucas Jones all followed with double figure performances.  Goodwin had 11 points and six assists.  Chavers had ten points and a team high eight rebounds.  Green finished with 11 points.  Dama was 6-of-6 on field goals with 12 points.  Jones had 12 points.
Kris McCann scored 12 points to lead Fontbonne.

The Panthers will close out their road trip with a game at Cleveland State Tuesday Nov. 28 at 6 p.m.