5 huge observations from the Illinois basketball win over Morehead State

Illinois basketball let Morehead State play up to our level in the first half, but the second half featured a completely different team.
Mar 21, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) reacts after his
Mar 21, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Marcus Domask (3) reacts after his / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn gave Illinois some important minutes

I can’t get over the bench play for Illinois. The first two slides were about bench players, and I am continuing that trend with the third slide.

For the game, the Illinois bench contributed 36 points in meaningful playing time. There were some garbage baskets toward the end, but the bench put up 36 points. It also had 13 rebounds, two blocks, and one assist.

A part of the bench that played meaningful minutes was Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn. This was a shocking development in the first half because I thought Brad Underwood was going to shorten his bench. I didn’t think he would play a freshman in anything but garbage minutes.

Gibbs-Lawhorn checked in during the first 20 minutes of action, though. The game was tied at 29, and the star freshman got his chance to shine. He came down the court and knocked down a three-pointer to give Illinois the lead.

Morehead State came storming back again later in the first half. They got the deficit back to one point at 36-35 with a big three-pointer. Gibbs-Lawhorn once again came through. He knocked down another three-point attempt, giving Illinois a 39-35 lead.

Those two buckets were huge for Illinois. We were struggling a bit against the Eagles, and it took a freshman to come in and help spark some offense. His six points and a rebound really helped propel Illinois to a victory on Thursday. His play in crucial minutes can’t go unnoticed. Gibbs-Lawhorn was big for this program.