Defense helps propel Illinois basketball to big halftime lead over Duquesne

Illinois basketball had the best half of the season, as we have a 24-point halftime lead over Duquesne.
Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Duquesne Dukes forward Andy Barba (22) dribbles the ball against
Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Duquesne Dukes forward Andy Barba (22) dribbles the ball against / Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball just had the best half of basketball of the 2023-24 season.

The Illini saved the best play for the right time, as we just put up a 50-spot in the first half against the Duquesne Dukes.

At halftime, the lead for Illinois grew to 24 points, as the score reads 50-26. This was easily the best half of basketball for the season both visually and on paper. Illinois scored 50 points, which is the most in the first half this season.

Visual, this is one of the most entertaining games I have watched. Everyone, besides maybe Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn, is playing lights out. Gibbs-Lawhorn saw a couple of minutes and had a foul, that is why he isn’t included.

Beyond Gibbs-Lawhorn, the Illini look great. The offense speaks for itself with 50 points, but I think the defense is what really stands out to me at this point.

Illinois basketball has played incredibly well defensively against Duquesne in the first half

Over the past couple of months, Illinois’ bugaboo has been defense. In the last few games, things have started to turn around, though.

Illinois came out in full force defensively against the Dukes. Terrence Shannon Jr. is leading the way with his great defensive tenacity. He is working through screens and not letting Duquesne get open looks.

I have also been pleased with Justin Harmon’s defense. He is someone who has struggled defensively this season, but his effort tonight has been incredible. He has been locked in around the three-point arc and even had a huge heads-up steal.

If Illinois keeps up this defensive intensity, the second half should bear the same result as the first 20 minutes. The Illini are playing amazingly well, so let’s close this thing out with a big victory and advance to the first Sweet 16 since 2005.