5 big observations from the Illinois basketball win over Iowa

It wasn't an easy road to the win, but the Illinois basketball team managed to pull together to protect homecourt.
Iowa v Illinois
Iowa v Illinois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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3. Illinois’ backup big men had a day

Finally, it finally happened! Brad Underwood trusted his bench, and they had a day. I loved what Niccolo Moretti did at point guard, and another big area that was aided by the bench was at the No. 5 spot.

Coleman Hawkins played 30 minutes, but he hasn’t been terribly effective at the No. 5 spot for the Illini. His defense isn’t great as far as matching up against the opposing big men, and he is more of a natural No. 4 who can stretch the floor.

Underwood decided to finally utilize his size on the bench. Dain Dainja was the first to get a shot, and once again, he played some good basketball. He finished the Iowa game with six points, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor. He did miss all three of his free throws, but his presence was felt.

Dainja hustled for the ball and was able to get rebounds for the Illini. This shrunk the ability for Iowa to get offensive rebounds. Even when Dainja didn’t pull down a rebound, he was causing chaos to the point the ball would bounce around and eventually land in Illinois’ hands.

The success of Dainja was fun to watch because he has played well in limited minutes this season. But I would argue getting Amani Hansberry time and seeing him blossom was an even better feeling on Saturday.

Hansberry was the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in high school. We haven’t seen him much this season, but his name was called today, and he shined.

The way Hansberry runs the court is phenomenal. He hustles back down after Illinois’ offensive possessions so Iowa couldn’t get a free bucket. Hansberry has great communication skills as well. When he gets back on defense, he calls out matchups. That is vital in playing solid team defense.

Hansberry’s strength in the paint is what I want at the No. 5 spot too. He has a strong lower body, and players like Owen Freemen had a hard time making up any ground on the freshman big man.

When the final horn blew, Hansberry ended up with four points, four rebounds, and one assist on 2-of-5 shooting from the floor in just 13 minutes of action. He was huge for the Illini.

Both Dainja and Hansberry showed Illinois fans what a true big man can do for this team. They were great for the program and a big reason we came away with the victory.