2. Illinois big men had trouble
When I say Illinois big men had trouble, that is using the term loosely. The Illini really don’t have a traditional big man. Coleman Hawkins is our tallest player at 6-foot-10, and he is more of a forward who tries to play center at times.
The lack of a player like Kofi Cockburn showed on Monday night. Illinois’ paint players struggled greatly on multiple levels.
Vladislav Goldin had his way with the Illini big men. Florida Atlantic’s 7-foot-1 center got into some foul trouble, so he only played 19 minutes, but they were big minutes for the Owls. He still went for 23 points, four rebounds, one block, one assist, and one steal on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor. Nearly every miss was a little bunny too, so he easily could have had more points.
Illinois being undersized hurts when going up against a big man like Goldin. The scary part about that is the fact we play Purdue twice this season. It will be interesting to see how we do against Zach Edey.
The Illini big men also struggled when Goldin was out of the game. Florida Atlantic subbed in Tre Carroll to replace Goldin. Carroll, at 6-foot-7, was a much easier matchup in the paint, but he didn’t stay in the paint long. Carroll could step out and hit the three-point shot. That really gave players like Dain Dainja trouble.
Florida Atlantic had a good game plan for Illinois’ paint players. We were torched all game long in this area of the court. Thankfully, we had some big-time performances from some big-time players on the perimeter.