4. Can Illinois keep Maryland off the free throw line?
In the win over Michigan State on Thursday night, Illinois was able to play smart basketball. We were aggressive on defense, but we didn’t commit bonehead fouls that sent the Spartans to the free throw line.
Michigan State only shot seven free throws against the Illini. This was a big reason why the Orange and Blue came away with the victory.
I want to see if Illinois can continue that smart play against Maryland. Can the Illini play tough defense without fouling and sending the Terrapins to the free throw line?
Illinois is actually one of the best teams in the country when it comes to not fouling the opponent. We are currently allowing our opponents to shoot 15.1 free throws per contest, which ranks No. 27 in the nation.
The Illini will be going up against a team in Maryland that likes to score from the charity stripe. They do this quite frequently. The Terrapins average 26.1 free throw attempts per game, which ranks No. 9 in the nation.
How can Illinois keep Maryland off the free throw line? Well, I think there is something to not playing Dain Dainja. While the big man looks good when in the game, he struggles shooting free throws and he fouls a lot. This season, Illinois is better in both of those statistical categories.
The only time Illinois really struggled by sending the opponent to the free throw line was against Purdue. We couldn’t match up against a 7-foot-4 monster. But Maryland isn’t a big team. Illinois can match up well against them. That will enable the Illini to play defense without fouling.
I also like our paint discipline. Illinois’ paint players, like Coleman Hawkins, are great at staying vertical when a player is coming at them. They don’t drop their arms down, which causes fouls. This has helped us stay out of foul trouble, and I fully expect that to continue against Maryland on Sunday.