5 huge observations from the Illinois basketball win over Iowa State

The wait to get back to the Elite 8 is finally over, as the Illinois basketball team managed to hold on against No. 2 seed Iowa State on Thursday night.
Illinois v Iowa State
Illinois v Iowa State / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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5. Illinois dodged a bullet at the free throw line

Making it to the Sweet 16 was nice, but that wasn’t the goal. The Illini fan’s mindset should have been Elite 8 or bust because a Sweet 16 as a No. 3 seed should be the bare minimum.

Illinois managed to get to the Sweet 16, and we had to play a tough Iowa State team. One of the ways we were able to get to the Sweet 16 was due to the ability to get to the free throw line.

This season, the Illini averaged 23.2 free throw attempts per game, which ranked No. 23 in the country. In years past, we have been kind of bad at shooting from the charity stripe. Not this season, though. The Illini shot free throws at a clip of 73.6% during the 2023-24 campaign.

Getting to the hoop and converting free throws has been a specialty for the Orange and Blue. But for some reason, our free throw ability was zapped on Thursday night. It is like we completely forgot how to shoot free throws.

Illinois was active and getting to the free throw line against Iowa State, but the free throws weren’t dropping. The Illini shot 29 free throws on Thursday night, but we only converted 15-of-29, 51.7%, from the charity stripe.

It is nothing short of a miracle that Iowa State didn’t take advantage of Illinois missing free throws. We left so many points out there. This game could have been a double-digit victory if we could just make free throws.

The Illini dodged a bullet with the poor free throw shooting. We can’t shoot like that against UConn on Saturday, or they will send us home. Hopefully, this was just a bad night from the free throw line, and we will get things corrected moving into the Elite 8.

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