Black, Williams help Illini hold off Grand Canyon, 62-58
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Illinois freshman reserve guard Da’Monte Williams only scored 3 points for Illinois in Saturday’s non-conference game against Grand Canyon, but he definitely made them count.
Williams’ all-net 3-pointer from the top of the key with 17 seconds left lifted Illinois past Grand Canyon 62-58.
Leron Black scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Trent Frazier scored 14 points and Michael Finke added 9 for Illinois (10-5).
Grand Canyon (10-5) was led by Keonta Vernon’s 14 points, while Alessandro Lever had 13 and Oscar Frayer added 10 points.
”Was I surprised that Da’Monte made that shot? No,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. ”He never surprises me. And he was shooting very well all week in practice. He just stepped up, took the shot, and it went in.”
The Antelopes (10-5) are one of the better defensive teams in the country, and it showed on Saturday when they forced 20 Illinois turnovers, scoring 18 points from them.
”Our defense has been our strength all year,” said Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle. ”Our shooting has been hot and cold, so most of our offense comes off of our defense.”
Majerle was impressed with the Illini. ”They’re a really, really good team. I’m proud of our guys. They played hard. So we learn from this and move on to conference play.”
The Antelopes led 32-27 at the half. The lead changed hands five times in the first half.
Illinois went 25-57 from the field (44 percent), while Grand Canyon went 23-64 (36 percent). Neither team shot well from 3-point range. Illinois went 5-of-19 and Grand Canyon shot 3-of-20 from beyond the stripe.
”Black is good. We knew that coming into the game,” Majerle said of the Illini’s 6-foot-7 redshirt junior’s shooting and rebounding. ”We doubled him up, but he is one of those undersized guys who just finds a way.”
Underwood agreed. ”Leron carried us in the first half, while Trent (Frazier) did so in the second half. But I think (Mark) Alstork’s defense was what won the game for us. He has turned into a stellar defensive player and it showed today.”
Grand Canyon: One of the better defensive teams in the nation, the Antelopes forced 20 Illinois turnovers that netted 18 points.
Illinois: The deeper Illini bench proved too much for Grand Canyon, outscoring the Antelopes 25-15.
TURNING POINT: Illinois junior forward Michael Finke – whose younger brother, shooting guard Tim Finke of Champaign, signed a letter of intent with Grand Canyon last month – slammed home a dunk with 5:39 left to give Illinois the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Oscar Frayer’s magnificent reverse dunk on an offensive rebound brought gasps and cheers from the Illinois crowd of more than 14,500.
Grand Canyon travels to Seattle University on January 6 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Illinois, which is 0-2 in the Big Ten, returns to conference play at Minnesota, Jan. 3.