Following last night’s loss to UNLV, the Illini have now dropped four of their last five and seem to have trouble finishing games against major D-1 teams. That being said, there was a lot to be happy with in Illinois’ performance, specifically two freshmen guards. Mark Smith and Trent Frazier share player of the game honors in their matchup against the Runnin’ Rebels.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Smith coming in to the season, but we saw his production decline when the Illini squared up against decent non-conference opponents – that was until last evening (technically this morning too?). After Da’Monte Williams got the nod from Coach Brad Underwood against Austin Peay, Smith was placed back in the starting lineup. The freshman entered the game shooting just 14.8 percent from deep, but finished the game four of five from behind the arc. He ended the game with 17 points, three boards, and four assists. We all knew Mark Smith was going to do Mark Smith things, let’s just hope he can build on this one and help the Illini bounce back Wednesday against Longwood.
The second part of the talented freshman duo, Trent Frazier played his best game of the season. Frazier poured in 12 of his career-high 16 points in the first half off the bench. He was another guy who entered last night’s contest shooting poorly from three (12.9 percent), but knocked down two of his three attempts. Frazier was six of 11 from the field, had four steals, an assist, and a rebound. He committed four turnovers, but ball security hasn’t been a huge issue for him. In fact, Frazier posted a 1.63 assist to turnover ratio heading into the game. The freshman is certainly giving Coach Underwood things to think about concerning the starting lineup. Don’t be surprised to see him crack the starting five for the first time in his career Wednesday night.