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Illinois Northwestern Basketball

Illinois guard Te'Jon Lucas, left, drives to the basket against Northwestern forward Gavin Skelly during the first half of their Big Ten game Friday in Rosemont.

CHAMPAIGN — Mark Alstork looked worn out. Te’Jon Lucas slumped against a wall and looked exhausted. But minutes after Illinois lost an overtime thriller to Northwestern Friday night, each knew it was the wrong time to expect much rest.

For the fourth time this season, Illinois has just one day between games as it prepares to host Maryland for a 7 p.m. game Sunday at the State Farm Center.

Coach Brad Underwood was resigned to the challenge, too.

“I’m pretty good at all-nighters,” Underwood said, knowing he’d need to get a head start on preparation during the late-night bus trip from Rosemont back to Champaign.

“That’s what you do,” he said. “You get your team prepared. You get ready. We have a saying that we’re ‘everyday guys.’ This is our (fourth) one-day prep and we’re pretty good at them by now.

“We have to take care of business at home.”

Lucas, Illinois’ sophomore point guard, scored a career-best 14 points against Northwestern. He said a schedule that allows little time for preparation becomes a mind game.

“There are a lot of mental things,” Lucas said. “You have to focus on film, lock in on scouting reports and be ready to compete.”

Underwood promised a point of emphasis would be trying to find ways to get Michael Finke involved again offensively. After averaging 14.6 points through the first six games, Finke has scored just two points in each of the two losses this week. And he’s managed just three field goal attempts in each game.

Underwood said he shares the blame for that.

“We have to get Michael going,” Underwood said. “Teams aren’t giving him jump shots and we’re getting nothing else from him. He has to be able to score in the paint. One offensive rebound in 32 minutes is not acceptable. He’s a big key to our basketball team.

“Mike wants to settle for jump shots and we put him in some of those positions so it’s my job. I have to do a better job of getting him in the post and we have to do a better job of looking for him."

Maryland has lost three of its last four games including an 80-75 home court loss to Purdue on Friday. The Boilermakers blitzed Maryland early, making 13 of their first 17 shots.

Maryland returns three starters from a team that went 24-9 last season. And while all-Big Ten guard Melo Trimble is gone, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter provide offensive pop with Cowan, a 6-foot guard, scoring 20 against Purdue.

“I’m sure we’re getting a well-coached basketball team that is ticked off and hungry,” Underwood said. “So are we.”

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​Follow Mark Tupper on Twitter: @MarkTupper


Sports Columnist

Sports columnist for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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