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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4. Dain Dainja making his case for more playing time

Over the years, there have been some confusing decisions by various coaches. One of the more recent head-scratchers is with Dain Dainja.

I haven’t been able to figure out why Dainja isn’t playing much for the Illini. I assume, judging by his comments to the media, that Brad Underwood wants to play a more perimeter game, and having someone like Coleman Hawkins out on the three-point arc gives Illinois a bigger three-point threat.

It seems that every time Dainja is in the game, Illinois looks better. We look like a more balanced team, and it really showed against Ohio State.

Hawkins got into foul trouble against the Buckeyes, and this opened the door for Dainja to play more minutes. In fact, the 11 minutes that Danija saw against Ohio State were the most he had seen since December 29.

Dainja finished the game on Tuesday night with seven points, five rebounds, and one block on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor. He also made his lone free throw of the night. It came on an incredibly athletic put-back that wowed me completely.

For the season, Dainja is shooting a career-high 66.3% from the field. He is also one of the most efficient players on the team. Dainja has a box plus/minus of +8.3. That ranks No. 3 on the team.

Dainja isn’t seeing a lot of playing time, but maybe, just maybe, his showing against the Buckeyes will earn him more minutes moving forward. He was sensational for the Illini, and I think he has made a case for more action for the rest of the season.