5 crucial observations from the Illinois basketball win over Ohio State

Jan 30, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) goes to the
Jan 30, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) goes to the / Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Brad Underwood is a very confusing coach

The Illinois basketball team is pretty fascinating when you look at the talent on the roster. We have such an eclectic mix of athletes, and there are so many options Illinois can go to on the offensive end of the court.

Time and time again, Brad Underwood has mentioned the style he wants to play. He has said he wants his teams to shoot a lot of three-point attempts. Even in the pregame media availability, Underwood touches on this thought.

“If I could take 60 threes, I’d take 60 threes, with this team. We just have to shoot more.”

Underwood’s comments come in reference to Illinois players turning down three-point attempts to drive to the hoop. My thing is, I believe that is when we are at our best.

Illinois is a team that can dominate in the paint. Having a good paint presence whether that be via the guards driving or someone posting up, is so important to the Illini offense. It shows in each and every game too.

I loved seeing Dain Dainja doing some great work as a traditional big man for the Illini. In his 11 minutes against Ohio State, he dropped seven points, five rebounds, and one block.

Ty Rodgers is so fun to watch when he has the ball in the paint. He can drive inside or even post up his man on the block. I have said it multiple times, Rodgers is a 6-foot-6 wing with the heart of a 7-foot-1 big man. He is nearly unstoppable around the rim.

Quincy Guerrier, Terrence Shannon Jr., and Marcus Domask all fit that mold as well. They are extremely tough to stop around the hoop. It is where they do their best work.

Illinois’ ability to get into the paint and score the basketball keeps defenders on their heels. This opens up the three-point game. It is why we are more efficient when we take fewer three-point attempts. The shots we do take from long-range are open because of the ability to drive.

That is why Underwood confuses me. He wants to come down the court and try to find a three-point shot every time down the court. I just don’t think that is when we play our best basketball. Illinois took 60 shots and only 17 of those were from three-point range against the Buckeyes. That is the Illini basketball I want to see.