5 big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Duquesne

After a big win in the first round, the Illinois basketball team now takes on the No. 11 Duquesne Dukes with a shot at advancing to the Sweet 16.
Mar 21, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Dain Dainja (42) reacts in the
Mar 21, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Dain Dainja (42) reacts in the / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois basketball has advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament after a big win over Morehead State.

This victory for the Illini advances us one step closer to the Sweet 16, an achievement that hasn't happened since 2005.

Duquesne is the opponent standing in the way. The Dukes are the No. 11 seed and upset No. 6 BYU in the first round. They have a good program, so there are a few questions I have for the game.

Here are five big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Duquesne

1. Can Illinois win the bench battle again?

Illinois is coming off a first-round win over Morehead State where we played one of the best games of the season. The defense looked solid in the second half, and the Illini offense was clicking.

A big reason for the double-digit victory over the Eagles was the contributions from the bench. Illinois had a lot of production from the reserves, and this took the pressure off some of the starters who weren’t having a good game.

So, can the Illini bench continue on this tear? Can we win the bench battle with a team in Duquesne that has a good bench?

In meaningful minutes against Morehead State, the Illinois bench had 36 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists. They were led by Dain Dainja’s career night of 21 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. He was incredible for this program.

I also liked what Luke Goode and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn brought to the Illini on Thursday. They both contributed offensively and hit some big shots. The hustle was there too, which helped energize the Orange and Blue.

The reason I wonder if Illinois can win the bench battle is that we were able to shut down Morehead State’s bench. They only got three points out of their reserves, which is a bad night for any bench.

Illinois is running into a Duquesne team that just took down BYU, and their bench was huge for the program. They contributed 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and a steal. Those are huge numbers.

The bench will help determine who comes out ahead on Saturday. Illinois is a pretty deep team, but clearly, the Dukes have a lot of firepower as well.

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