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Key Matchups: Illinois vs. North Carolina Central

Who leads the NCCU Eagles?

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina Central Eagles

The last matchup for the Illini in the Global Sports Invitational, the North Carolina Central Eagles are 2-4 on the season. UT-Martin and Marshall handed the Eagles a pair of losses, and their lone win came against Southern University, 80-67.

Raasean Davis

The redshirt junior transfer from Kent State has been a huge addition (figuratively and literally) to this N.C. Central team. Davis is a 6-foot-10 center who is having a great start to the year. He’s recorded a double-double in each of the last two games and is averaging 16 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per a game. He is a key reason why the Eagles are outrebounding their opponents by almost nine rebounds per game.

Reginald Gardner Jr.

Gardner Jr. is a freshman at NCCU and is the biggest threat from deep for the Eagles. He’s one of just two guys on the team with over five made threes. Other than his outside shot, he doesn’t get to the line a whole lot, but when he does, he’s a good free throw shooter. The Illini will attempt to limit the amount of windows he gets from outside.

C.J. Wiggins

The point guard for the Eagles has gotten the nod from Head Coach LeVelle Moton the past three games and his offensive production has increased. In the last three games, the junior is averaging over 11 points and over five assists to just one turnover. Wiggins was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line in their win against Southern.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Leron Black

The guy at the top of all opposing scouting reports is Leron Black. The junior is shooting 60 percent from the field, over 84 percent from the free throw line, and averaging 15.4 points in only 22 minutes per game this year. If you want to nit-pick, he’s only averaging five rebounds per game.

Mark Smith

Most expected Mr. Basketball to step onto the scene and make an immediate impact for the Illini and he has. The freshman has started all five games this season and has been automatic from the free throw line. He’s 23-24 from the charity stripe with his only miss coming last night against Augustana. He’s averaging almost 14 points and he’s only shooting 2-16 from deep. When he starts hitting from beyond the arc, teams will need to take cover because Smith gets buckets.

Michael Finke

Coming off just his second career double-double, Finke has blossomed in Coach Underwood’s offense. He’s found his groove from three and is looking like a major scoring threat. He’s also averaging six rebounds a game and hasn’t been a liability with the ball. He’s committed just four turnovers on the year.

It seems like the Illini are starting to get a grasp on the Underwood offense. It’s not where Underwood himself would like to see it, but it’s a definite improvement from what we’ve seen. Hopefully, the Illini can keep the non-conference momentum going into their matchup against Wake Forest.