Illinois Basketball: 4 big statistics from the Illini win over Minnesota

Dec 15, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Trent Frazier (1) celebrates during the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Trent Frazier (1) celebrates during the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

Coach Brad Underwood lit a fire under the Illinois basketball team after stumbling to Missouri in a rivalry game.

After legitimately being showed up for the first time this season by a lesser team, specifically in the effort column, the Illini clearly had a laser focus on areas they must improve.

Not only did the Illini look fantastic on both ends of the floor, but they made a 6-0 Minnesota team with one of the nation’s best guards in Marcus Carr look rather terrible. Plenty stood out, but here are four numbers that stand above the rest from Illinois’ victory over Minnesota.

+34 in paint points margin

Kofi Cockburn played the best game of his career, dominating everything Coach Richard Pitino threw at him.

The Illini had 48 points in the paint, whereas Minnesota had just 14. When Kofi tests the NBA Draft waters again in 2021, this will be the first game he wants scouts to see. He has seen his inconsistencies thus far with foul trouble, charity stripe struggles and physicality down low, but 33 points, 12-of-15 from the field, 9-of-15 from the line, 13 boards and 2 blocks should send a message to the rest of the conference in the Big Ten opener.

Illinois as a whole were getting what they wanted in deep with massive driving lanes and easy reads off of pick and rolls. Ayo Dosunmu and Andre Curbelo made a living collapsing the defense from the inside out, getting easy buckets and setting up their teammates with easy looks.

The Gophers are not a small or unathletic group, providing evidence that Kofi and the Illini have the tools to dominate the paint night in and night out.

23.1% from the field

In the prior six games prior, Marcus Carr had been shooting an electric 48.1-percent from the field on massive volume at 17 shots per game. Thus far, Carr has been one of the best players in the entire nation, scoring the ball at a high rate and carrying the Gophers to a 6-0 record.

Trent Frazier did what he does best on Tuesday night and locked down the Canadian guard, who shot just 23.1-percent from the field. Coach Underwood told the media that Trent said, “I got Carr” days before the game.

Talent on this Illini roster is oozing from every corner, but leadership, toughness and grit are invaluable for a team with championship aspirations. The Big Ten is home to an astounding list of some of the nation’s top talent, especially in the backcourt, so having a blueprint to rely back on like Trent’s performance on Carr may prove dividends down the line.

Trent and Ayo played a team-high 30 minutes, as both took turns locking down the Gophers redshirt junior guard. Both Gach, an extremely talented Utah transfer who can fill it up on the wing, was 0-of-9 with one point as well. Long wings can be an awkward matchup for the Illini roster, but Ayo and Da’Monte Williams put the clamps on Gach.

The Illini were outworked by the Tigers just a few days ago, and it was clear that the backcourt took the challenge on to outwork the Gophers in the Big Ten opener. Frazier can fall through the cracks of accolades, appreciation and fandom from Illini fans as well as media because of his ups and downs and production regression, but games like this one are the reason Coach Underwood has such a hard time taking him off the floor.

Win 81% of games when Ayo Dosunmu has 6 or more rebounds

I have preached on it before and I will do it once again. Having Ayo Dosunmu clear the rebound and start the break for the Illini reaps a massive reward.

In the last two seasons, Illinois has won 71-percent of games when Ayo is active. That winning percentage takes a 10-percent bump up when Ayo is active on the boards, clearing six or more rebounds.

To me, that is significant. Having the possession begin in your most talented player’s hands allows the Illini to control the tempo and put your personnel in positions to thrive. I have keyed in many times on how I am evaluating Ayo’s IQ and intangible trait development.

In year three, Ayo’s activity in the rebounding column should have heightened value because of how he can start the break himself when he sees a lane, pushes ahead to one of the talented guards on the wing for a setup or hockey assist as well as slows up when need be, and settle into a half-court offense. Dosunmu has had just one game this season with less than six boards, and you guessed it, it was against Missouri. Look for this to be a key swing stat moving forward.

36.8% from three-point and 68% from the free throw line

The Illini won by 27 points, controlled the game from the jump and had a grip on tempo all night, but they still struggled from three-point range and from the free throw line.

In the five games prior to Missouri, the Illini averaged nine made three-pointers per game. Over the last two games, the Illini have averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game.

The roster has obvious potential to shoot the lights out on any given night, but to dominate the way they did without utilizing their perimeter prowess is impressive, and better yet, exciting for Illini fans.

The free throw shooting has been a struggle thus far, shooting just 67-percent. Illinois gets to the line 23.6 times each game, so when their free throw shooting numbers rise above 70-percent, their offensive efficiency should grow even stronger.

Next. Illini MVP in the win over Minnesota. dark

With all the things that Illinois did right against Minnesota, there is still massive room to improve shooting the ball moving forward.