The Illini shot 16 of 30 from the 3-point-line, tying a school record for the most 3-pointers made in a game.
"We did some nice things today, especially from the three-point line," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. "But I think we got a little crazy shooting them out there. We need to find a better balance by getting more shots in the paint from our big guys."
Jordan Evans scored a game-high 22 points for Mississippi Valley State (1-6). Dante Scott and Aleksa Koracin added 12 and 10 points respectively, while Emmanuel Ejeh had eight rebounds for the Delta Devils.
The Illini went on a 10-0 run to end the first half, sealing the victory. Nichols hit a turnaround jumper with 3:37 left in the half to begin the run, which included 3-pointers by Tyler Underwood and Frazier.
Both teams turned the ball over 13 times, but Illinois capitalized and scored 14 points to Mississippi Valley's eight.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Illini were coming off a disappointing Maui Jim Maui Invitational tournament in which they lost to Gonzaga, Iowa State and Xavier after losing to Georgetown at home. During the Hawaii trip, Frazier was a bright spot, averaging 20.7 points per game, including a season-high 29 points against Gonzaga.
"I'm tired after that trip," Underwood said. "So I know the guys are tired."
Underwood said he knew from experience that the first game home after the Maui tournament was going to be tough.
"I'm just glad to get that one out of the way," he said. "We were a very tired basketball team out there today, and I'm not taking anything away from Mississippi Valley. They were tough and we knew we would have to grind through it."
Frazier agreed. "We were physically tired out there. I mean, it felt good to be home doing what we do, but we really had to work to stay together as a team."
Freshman center Samba Kane threw down two rim-rattling dunks in the second half that brought the sparse holiday weekend crowd to its feet.
"Samba is a very good offensive player," Underwood said of the 7-foot true freshman. "We anticipate seeing some decent playing time for him."
Kane scored six points in the game.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Well, I think we are the best offensive team in the country," Frazier said. "We just need to work on some of the other stuff."
Mississippi Valley State: Hosts Rust College on Wednesday.
Illinois: Travels to Notre Dame on Tuesday.
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