It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Illinois basketball team secured a home win over the Indiana Hoosiers after a late-game surge.
Both teams had their fair share of struggles putting the ball in the hoop. In the end, Illinois had more scoring weapons and did a far better job executing offensively, while Indiana struggled to find consistency and remained very perimeter oriented down the stretch. The Illini showed a wave of energy to close the game but the slow starts remain a concern.
Here are four major numerical takeaways from the win.
+16, +15 and +13
The +/- totals of Andre Curbelo, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn respectively.
Quickly becoming the Illini’s “big three” in terms of creating offense and statistical production, they were counted on once again to carry a hefty load on both ends.
It is becoming a strong formula for Coach Brad Underwood, as Curbelo provides a strong burst off the bench offensively at the exact moment defenses can get a slight grasp on Dosunmu’s creation. Not only does the group of three provide consistent offense, they all have grown defensively through just 10 games.
Cockburn, Dosunmu and Curbelo make up for nearly half of the Illini’s rebounding production, where they are maintaining a strong +14 margin over the opponent on the season. The cast of role players have had their inconsistencies on the defensive end and as shooters but what will remain constant all season is Dosunmu, Cockburn and Curbelo being the head of the snake for the Illini.
Indiana struggled offensively, thus the reason the Illini only committed nine personal fouls, as they simply could not find their rhythm for more than 1-2 possessions in a row.
Foul trouble limited Trayce Jackson-Davis for the majority of the game, and Kofi Cockburn did not help his case in this one either. Archie Miller had to rely on his guards, Armaan Franklin, Al Durham and Rob Phinisee, who were mostly caged up outside of Franklin’s perimeter barrage finishing with 23 points.
The Illini guards, Curbelo in specific, did a fantastic job double-teaming Jackson-Davis in the post and putting a wrench in their offensive sets. The Hoosiers only nine assists compared to eight turnovers. The margin itself is a recipe for losing, and the recent foul trouble struggles for the Illini might be the reason they did not force more turnovers with aggression.
60 points are the second lowest point total for an Illini opponent since the 97-38 victory over Chicago State. Illinois will face more high powered offenses in the Big Ten with Northwestern around the corner and Iowa and Michigan down the line, but holding the worst offensive team in the Big Ten to 12 points below their average is encouraging.
Adam Miller struggled mightily against the Hoosiers, now making it his third game in a row where he has not surpassed a +4 in the +/- column, totaling -14 over the stretch.
The freshman guard shot out of a cannon to start his collegiate career, but since then he has fallen off a bit and seems to be having trouble cementing his role. In a simple manner, his instant role on the team became a floor stretching microwave scorer, but microwaves turn off at a certain point.
Since the shooting numbers have fallen to sub-37-percent, Miller has seemed lost in terms of target areas of contribution. The first step that made him a deadly slasher at the prep level has not translated yet, and he has not been very active as a cutter.
Miller is incredibly talented, I have no doubt he will figure it out, but there are a ton of mouths to feed in the backcourt so Coach Underwood is having a hard time keeping him on the court if he is not bringing value to the five.
In the first 7 games, Miller played at least 22 minutes in each game. In the last three, he is averaging just 18 minutes per game. Curbelo is really coming along and is playing cleaner now, while Frazier’s defensive value and 45-percent shooting from three-point range make them both very difficult to keep off the court.
Miller will have to expand his game by really improving as a ball handler, hard-nosed driver and work on an intermediate game that appears mostly raw. He is too good of a player to cut his minutes in much further, and I do expect plenty of huge games ahead of him this year.
Ayo Dosunmu is a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Back-to-back 30-point games and two-straight outings finishing above +15. The comment that Coach Underwood made in the pre-season about Ayo’s development, and how fantastic it is to have your best player be your most improved player seemed intriguing at the time, but a few weeks later, he was exactly right in those words.
Ayo did not do as much stat sheet stuffing as I usually love to see from him, with two boards and five helpers, but he scored the ball with incredible efficiency going 11-of-17. The majority of my experience is in NBA Draft evaluation and scouting, and one of my key traits for ball handlers in the modern NBA is their ability to change pace and get to heir spots.
Not only does Ayo have a fantastic feel for where his spots are, he has developed a control and ease to score the ball. His growth as a playmaker, leader and overall floor general have him averaging 7.8 boards and 5.2 assists per game, which have made him even more deadly as a scorer due to the attention he requires.
At 6-foot-5 and close to 210 pounds with a vastly improved shooting stroke, proven toughness and grit on both ends and mass development in the mental aspect of the game. The level of polish to his game is far beyond the majority of lead guards in the upcoming draft class, outside of Jalen Suggs and Cade Cunningham.
The immediate production of upperclassmen draft picks over the last few seasons bodes well for Dosunmu’s stock and only should be boosted by the growing prominence of pick and roll prominent offensive schemes.