Illinois basketball started a road trip on Saturday and came away with a big win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
This was a random Big Ten game sandwiched in the middle of the non-conference, but the Illini came prepared. While the Scarlet Knights kept the game close at half, Illinois forged ahead in the second 20 minutes of action.
Illinois’ suffocating defense was too much for Rutgers. They couldn’t get anything going inside the three-point arc, as the Scarlet Knights shot 14-of-47, 29.8%, from two-point range.
This great defense helped propel Illinois to an easy 76-58 victory over Rutgers.
Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over Rutgers
1. Coleman Hawkins should have come off the bench
Doing anything is difficult when you have had multiple weeks off. Something as small as going back to work, it takes a minute for you to get back into the groove of things.
With Coleman Hawkins, he had missed the last three games for the Illini. This absence got him healthier and ready to take on a tough upcoming schedule. But it also, understandably, made Hawkins cold.
Hawkins started the game pretty rough. In the first half alone, Hawkins was 0-of-1 from the field, 0-of-1 from three-point range, and had two fouls, one assist, and one rebound. He did not look good, and this was understandable because he missed so much time.
I figured Hawkins was going to be rusty to start the game. That is why I am surprised Brad Underwood didn’t bring Hawkins off the bench. He should probably have been eased back into action instead of thrown to the wolves.
Hawkins finally knocked off the rust in the second half. He finished the game going 3-of-9 from the field, 0-of-2 from three-point range, and had six points, eight rebounds, one assist, and one steal. I was happy with the second half out of Hawkins, but his rough play early on was one of the reasons Rutgers was still in the game by halftime.