5 crushing observations from the Illinois basketball loss to UConn

The Illinois basketball team felt the wrath of the best team in the college game on Saturday night.

Mar 30, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts with guard
Mar 30, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts with guard / Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Illinois’ bench was nowhere to be found

In the first slide, I touched on how the supporting cast didn’t help much when Terrence Shannon Jr. was focused on defensively. We needed a player to step up, and no one did.

The same can kind of be said for the Illinois bench. The bench rotation has been a huge piece of the program this season, as they have given us a spark and helped propel us to victories on multiple occasions.

I would argue this was the worst bench performance of the season. When you take the garbage minutes out of the equation, the bench gave the Illini nearly nothing.

By the game’s end, the Illinois bench roughly combined for zero points, eight rebounds, and two assists on 0-of-10 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 from three-point range. They also had four turnovers in the game.

I realize that every Illinois player had a bad game, but I was hoping maybe our bench would give us a needed spark. Dain Dainja had his opportunity to body UConn’s big man, but he just didn’t have the strength. He didn’t look good offensively either.

Luke Goode had a few looks from three-point range, which could have started a run for Illinois, but those shots didn’t drop. As always, I did appreciate Goode’s hustle. At halftime, he led the Illini with five rebounds and finished the game as Illinois’ leading rebounder with six rebounds.

Illinois needed an outlet from someone, anyone. But we just didn’t have it on Saturday. The Illini bench couldn’t provide a spark.