5 big observations from the Illinois basketball win over Michigan

Feb 13, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) reacts
Feb 13, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) reacts / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 5

4. This was a much-needed defensive game for Illinois

Illinois used to be pretty good defensively. When the offense wasn’t flowing, the defense was always there to back them up and keep us in games.

That hasn’t been the case in the last few games. Coming into the Michigan game on Tuesday night, the Illini had given up an average of 82.3 points per game in the last three contests. Go back to January 24, and we gave up 96 points to Northwestern.

On top of giving up a lot of points lately, Illinois hasn’t been able to force many turnovers. Opposing teams haven’t had double-digit turnovers since the Rutgers game on January 21. That was the only time in the past nine games when Illinois forced double-digit turnovers as well.

Things haven’t been going well on the defensive end of the court. Illinois managed to take a step in the right direction on Tuesday night, though. The defense finally looked good and completely shut down the Wolverines.

Let’s start with the turnovers. Illinois forced Michigan into 11 turnovers. It was nice to get more chances at the bucket because the opposing team was giving us the ball back. We also forced two more turnovers than the last time we played Michigan.

Illinois locked down the Wolverines as well. They only scored 68 points in the entire game, and most of those came in the second half when we had our bench players in the game. Michigan was 1-of-10, 10%, from three-point range. That was the second-best three-point defensive performance of the season, only second to Indiana, which was 0-of-9.

Every level of the Illinois defense was improved from what we have seen in the past few games. This was a great correction and a much-needed defensive game by the Illini.