4. Free throw shooting is a…STRENGTH for Illinois
I never thought I would utter these words. I would have bet that pigs would fly sooner than what has happened with the Illinois basketball team. But I would have lost that bet.
I am going to go on record and say it. Free throw shooting is now a strength for the Illinois basketball program. Those words are super foreign to me, but I think there is a big enough sample size to say they are true.
After the 2022-23 campaign, I thought Illinois was just going to be a bad free throw shooting team coming into this season. We didn’t lose the bad free throw shooters. They were all returning to the roster. Illinois shot 67.9% from the charity stripe last season, which ranked No. 309 out of 363 teams.
Illinois shot 63.6% from the free throw line against Rutgers back on December 2. After that game, Illinois’ free throw shooting sat at 57.8% for the season, which was fourth worst in the nation, No. 359 out of 362 teams. That is called rock bottom, folks.
Since then, the Illini flipped a switch. We shot 90% against Florida Atlantic and 85.7% against Tennessee. On Sunday, Illinois came out and had another great free throw shooting performance. We hit 20-of-22 from the charity stripe, which is 90.9%.
Illinois is now shooting 69.4% from the free throw line for the season. This is good enough to rank No. 242 in the country. This free throw shooting has helped the program tremendously too.
If the Illini hit 68% from the free throw line against Colgate, that 10-point lead would have turned into a five-point lead down the stretch. Who knows what would have happened then? Free throws matter. They make life a lot easier when they go in. I think it is safe to say, free throws are now a strength for Illinois.