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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3. The Illini settling let Nebraska back into the game

Despite Illinois coming away with a big win on Sunday night, I can’t type all positives in this article. This was a game we should have easily won down the stretch, but we let it nearly slip away.

Illinois is an extremely talented team but also frustrating at the same time. Knocking down big three-pointers is fun, and we would all like to be like Steph Curry. But guess what, we aren’t.

I believe it is clear that the Illini are playing our best when we are driving to the hoop. This is when good plays happen, even if those good plays result in misses at times.

Throughout the Nebraska game, Illinois would have moments of clarity. We would drive the ball to the basket and get to the free throw line, or we would get the ball into the paint and find the open man either slashing or on the perimeter. Let the inside game open up the outside game.

But then Illinois would revert back to bad habits. The ball would slow down and every member of the team would be on the perimeter. There was little movement and then it ended up leading to a bad shot.

When Illinois went up 72-62 with 3:29 left in the game, this is what happened. We made a couple of three-point shots in a row and after that, the Illini started settling for the deep ball. Three out of the next four shots down the court were three-point attempts, and the ball stopped moving.

Illinois setting for shots got Nebraska back into the game. It is not like the Cornhuskers were extremely dominant down the stretch. We were the cause of our own collapse. If we continue to settle, we will get knocked off by teams. The Illini are at our best when we play the inside-out game.