It was an eventful day for the Illinois basketball team, and despite the fight from Rutgers, we managed to come out on top.
The Illini were in full force on Sunday, as leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. was back in the lineup. While he awaits the preliminary hearing on February 23 stemming from a rape charge, Shannon was granted the ability to continue playing basketball by a judge just days ago.
At times, Illinois looked good and like there wasn't a beat missed without their leading scorer. But Rutgers made a charge in the second half. They got the game back within four points at 55-51. That is when Illinois took over. The Illini finished the game on a 31-12 run to win the game over Rutgers, 86-63.
Here are five crucial observations from the Illinois basketball win over Rutgers
1. Justin Harmon was huge for Illinois
Illinois didn’t look great offensively on Sunday. I would argue this was one of the worst offensive games Illinois has had in a long time.
The Illini starters ended up going 4-of-16 from three-point range. All but one of the Illinois bench players were also 0-of-6 from three-point range. One of the only players who really had a quality game offensively was Justin Harmon.
Harmon entered the Rutgers contest not playing well. He was just 7-of-25 from the field and 3-of-11 from three-point range in his last four contests. So, I wasn’t expecting a lot out of him against the Scarlet Knights.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw, though. Harmon came out and didn’t try to do too much on Sunday. He ended up with 18 points, eight rebounds, and one block while shooting 8-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-5 from three-point range.
Harmon got to his spots from behind the three-point arc, and this helped him convert important buckets. He was also creating his own shots by driving to the hoop. He was active rebounding, and he would slash and get open to get easier shots around the hoop.
There were times Illinois struggled against Rutgers, but Harmon was a crucial part of why we ended up winning by 23 points. He was huge for the Illini on Sunday.