3. Illinois worked on three-point defense
I was arguably the most disappointed I had been in the Brad Underwood era in the game against Northwestern. Illinois fell to the Wildcats, but the way we lost was from the three-point arc.
Illinois had some of the worst three-point defense I have ever seen. Northwestern hit 61.1% from three-point range, which was the highest of the season by an opponent. In fact, it was the second highest by an opponent in the Underwood era. Iowa shot 71.4% against Illinois in 2019.
The biggest issue for the Illini against Northwestern was getting through screens. We were going around screens, which left the Wildcats open for easy three-point attempts.
Illinois was a different three-point defensive team on Saturday against Indiana. The Illini only went under screens a couple of times, at most, when defending the three-point arc against the Hoosiers. We were fighting through the screens, so the shooter didn’t have an open shot. Illinois was also closing out much stronger.
This better defense led to Indiana struggling from three-point range. Coming into the game, the Hoosiers were hitting their three-pointers at a clip of 34.1%, which ranked No. 155 in the country, so they were an above-average three-point program.
Illinois didn’t just shut down Indiana from three-point range, we eliminated that aspect of the game completely. The Hoosiers shot 0-of-9, 0.0%, from beyond the three-point arc on Saturday. While they were able to do some good work in the paint, they were rendered useless from deep.
I believe Illinois clearly worked on three-point defense since that Northwestern matchup. This was a point of emphasis on Saturday, and we showed that this is actually a strength of the Orange and Blue.