The Illinois Fighting Illini will continue their journey for a national title on Sunday against the (2) Miami (FL) Hurricanes in Austin, Texas.
With tip-off being only hours away, here are five keys to victory for Illinois’ tournament game against Miami (FL)…
Rebounding the basketball has not been a strong point for the Illinois Fighting Illini this season. They have been out-rebounded as team in their last four games and their leading rebounder is only averaging 4.6 rebounds per game this year. Illinois rebounded the ball better in their first game of the NCAA Tournament against Colorado, but was still outrebounded. Miami (FL) had two players total 18 rebounds with ten of them coming from Reggie Johnson off the bench. Illinois will need to play a physical game today and will need to try and limit the rebounds for the Canes. For Illinois, long shots equal long rebounds.
2) Take advantage of free throws attempts
One of the biggest strengths for a team in the NCAA Tournament is free throw shooting. Illinois has done this very well this season. In the Big Ten conference tournament, they averaged around 90% from the foul line against both Indiana and Minnesota. Most of those free throws came against the Hoosiers where the Fighting Illini went 19-of-21 from the foul line. Free throws also “saved” the Illini in their game against the Colorado Buffaloes. After Paul and Richardson hit back-to-back three’s, Illinois was able to ride their free throw percentage to a win. They will need to take advantage of their success at the foul line in order to have a shot against the Canes.
3) Don’t get intimidated
The game against #2 Miami (FL) will not be just a physical game for Illinois, but mental as well. Sometimes, teams get intimidated when they play a very good team in the tournament. The Illini will need to avoid this from happening on Sunday. Yes, the Hurricanes are a great defensive team, but that cannot change how the Illini play their game. In the second half against Colorado, Illinois lost all of their confidence from the first half and struggled because of it.
The Fighting Illini will need to keep their cool and avoid intimidation if they want to make it to the Sweet 16.
4) Speed up the game
Miami (FL) comes into Sunday’s game with a very skilled defense. If the Illini allow the Canes to set up defensively, they could be in for a long day. The Fighting Illini are VERY good at making jumpers while in transition. They should use this to their advantage. If Illinois can make jumpers in transition and not allow the Hurricane defense to get set up, they will be in good shape.
Defense will need to be a bigger key to the game for Illinois than it was against Colorado. Unless the Illini can take Miami’s defense out of the game, they might need to step their defense up to Miami’s level. Illinois showed how inconsistent they can be in their first tournament game. Due to this inconsistency, Illinois will need to make scoring rough on the Hurricanes. The Illini have the potential to play great defense. They played at a high defensive level against Minnesota in the Big Ten conference tournament. They will need to play at that same level on Sunday in they want any chance to win on Sunday.
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