5 big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Minnesota

Coming off a much-needed win over Iowa, the Illinois basketball team welcomes in Minnesota on Wednesday night in what could be a win-or-go-home game for the Golden Gophers.
Feb 24, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33)
Feb 24, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Will Minnesota take the game inside?

Illinois has been giving up a lot of points lately. It has been a run of bad defense that I don’t think I have ever seen in the history of the program.

Over the last three games, Illinois’ opponents have scored at least 80 points. The Illini have given up 80 points in five out of the last six contests as well.

On Wednesday, I want to see if Minnesota has figured out what they need to do to get to 80 points. Will the Golden Gophers not settle for three-pointers and take the game inside?

For the season, the Illini are allowing opponents to shoot 32.4% from three-point range, which ranks No. 97 in the country. This number has been pretty consistent as well.

A number that hasn’t been consistent is opponent's two-point shooting. For the season, Illini opponents are hitting 45.8% from two-point range, which ranks No. 29 in the nation. But over the past three games, that number has jumped up to 52.4%.

In the narrow win over Iowa, Illinois allowed the Hawkeyes to shoot 51.0% from two-point range. In the loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions shot an incredible 57.4% from two-point range.

It seems that Illinois has overcorrected and is playing solid perimeter defense, but this is opening up the paint and allowing opponents to score. Illinois’ paint presence is also weak at times, as we have trouble with an opposing big man backing us down.

If Brad Underwood starts allowing the bench to play more minutes, I believe Illinois’ defense will see an improvement. Dain Dainja and Amani Hansberry can both hold their own in the paint. If these two play more on Wednesday, look for Illinois to have a stronger defensive performance.