CHAMPAIGN – Graduate transfer Mark Alstork struggled early for Illinois. He missed his first three shots and didn’t score from the field until there was 3:15 left in the first half.
But he still found a way to be effective in Illinois’ 102-55 victory over Southern. He scored the Illini’s first points of the season on two free throws and scored nine points from the foul line in the first half – helping calm his nerves in the season opener.
“I ain’t never seen that many fans since I started playing college basketball,” Alstork said. “That’s humbling for me.”
He finished with 17 points and snagged 10 rebounds Friday night, helping lead Illinois past Southern in the first game of coach Brad Underwood’s career with the Illini.
The Illini shot only 4 of 21 from behind the arc but secured a decisive win over the Jaguars by pounding the glass and playing smothering defense.
Southern was outrebounded, 42-26, and shot only 37.3 percent from the field.
Illinois was much more successful from the field. The Illini shot 50.8 percent, and their starters combined to knock down 22 of their 35 shots. Underwood played several reserves, and the hot shooting carried over to junior Aaron Jordan.
Jordan finished with 17 points off the bench, knocking down 2 of 3 3-pointers and all seven of his free throws.
“Everybody was out there playing together, moving the ball,” Jordan said. “Everybody got a little piece of it tonight.”
Jared Sam led the way for Southern with 21 points, the only Jaguar to reach double figures.
Eddie Reese scored the Jaguars’ first basket of the year but finished with only seven points and five turnovers.
Coach Morris Scott said that a lot of his team’s struggles were caused by the Illini, but also said that many of their mistakes were due to youth.
“We got about eight new guys that are playing right now,” Scott said. “You know it’s their first division one game, so some it was probably nerves.”
Michael Finke scored Illinois’ first field goal of the season on a right hand jam after a missed jumper by Alstork. He and Leron Black combined for
26 points and 12 rebounds to help Underwood begin his Illini career with a win.
“Those are veterans who’ve played in college basketball games,” Underwood said. “[They] know what it takes.”