5 crucial observations from the Illinois basketball win over Nebraska

Feb 4, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) reacts
Feb 4, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) reacts / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Ty Rodgers’ hustle is something special

There have been a few players over the years that their hustle has stood out. I think back in the day to players like Lucas Johnson and Chester Frazier. Those guys weren’t the most talented basketball-wise, but they hustled and gave it their all.

Ty Rodgers is that but, figurately, on steroids. He is able to do so much on the basketball court, and still somehow his hustle is what stands out the most.

On Sunday, Rodgers’ hustle was on full display against Nebraska. It seemed that every time down the court, whether it was on offense or defense, Rodgers was skying for a rebound or diving for a ball to try to save it.

Rodgers finished the game with eight points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks. He is truly a do-it-all type of player. But I want to explain two things that stood out to me the most.

The first is the willingness to get dirty. There was one play that stuck out to me. When Illinois put up a shot, most of the team got back on defense and didn’t go for the ball. Rodgers, along with a Nebraska player, chased after the ball and both dove to the floor. Rodgers was able to knock the ball off the Cornhuskers’ player and it was Illinois’ ball again. That type of play gives the Illini an extra possession. That extra possession could be a reason we win the game.

Another thing I want to note has to do with rebounding the basketball. Rodgers’ 14 rebounds are great. At 6-foot-6, he led both teams in rebounds, and the next closest players had 11 rebounds on the night.

Out of the 14 rebounds Rodgers pulled down, five of those rebounds were on the offensive glass. He gave Illinois five second-chance opportunities to score more points. That is crucial in a game. In fact, Rodgers’ five offensive rebounds weren’t just the most on the team, but tied the entire Nebraska squad, as they only had five offensive rebounds as a team.

I will go on record and say that Illinois wouldn’t be winning at nearly the clip we are winning at right now without Rodgers. This kid is the glue that holds the Illini together.