Illinois Basketball: 4 observations from the Illini win over Rutgers

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Illinois basketball

Mar 12, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Da’Monte Williams (20) defends against Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Ron Harper Jr. (24) in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball finally had their rematch against Rutgers, and the result on Friday night was a little better than the first time around.

The Illini fell to the Scarlet Knights back in December, 91-88. Illinois exacted revenge in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament, though. Down 19 points by halftime, Rutgers didn’t have an answer the entire night. Illinois came out punching and there was no punch back. The final score would show 90-68 in favor of the Illini.

Here are four observations from the Illini win over Rutgers.

1. Illinois made adjustments on defense

Illinois basketball fell to Rutgers in the lone game they played in the regular season. This was a disappointing loss at the time, but that was also a different Scarlet Knights bunch and a different Illini squad as well.

On Friday night, in the first game for Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, the Orange and Blue came out of the gates strong and never let up. Specifically, though, the Illini defensive game plan was exactly what this team needed.

Illinois gave up 91 points in the first game against Rutgers. The results were completely different on Friday, as the Scarlet Knights were only able to get 68 points on the board. There were two things Illinois did differently on defense.

The first thing that stood out to me is the defensive pressure the Illini had on the Rutgers’ three-point shooters. They were only 2-of-11 from the three-point arc, which is 18.2-percent. In the first game, they were 8-of-20, which is 40-percent. That is an 18-point difference just in three-pointers.

I also took notice of Illinois’ capability to not foul on defense. They were much smarter in this game than in the first contest. Rutgers managed to hit 16-of-22 from the foul line on Friday night, but this is actually a much smaller number than in the first game when they were 25-of-36 from the charity stripe. That is a nine-point difference.

So, just by adjusting the defense a little bit, Illinois was able to save 18 points out on the three-point arc and nine points from the free throw line. That is a 27-point adjustment, which is why we killed Rutgers the second time around.

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