Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Fairleigh Dickinson

Dec 29, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) drives to
Dec 29, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) drives to / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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4. Illinois three-point defense has me worried

Normally, when there is an anomaly in a statistic, I don’t worry about it too much. It is probably just a one-off and won’t happen too much in the future.

I am not taking the same approach with three-point defense, though. Illinois went up against a Fairleigh Dickinson team on Friday night that was not good at shooting from three-point range. Entering the game, they averaged hitting 30.9% of their three-pointers, which ranked No. 256 in the country.

On top of that, Illinois had one of the best three-point shooting defenses. We were only allowing opponents to shoot 28.3% from beyond the three-point arc entering the game.

When it comes to three-point defense, everything went off the rails for the Illini against the Knights. Fairleigh Dickinson attempted 29 three-point shots on Friday night and hit them at a clip of 41.4%.

For the season, that is the most three-pointers an Illinois opponent has attempted and the second-best three-point shooting night, next to Rutgers which shot 46.2%.

Fairleigh Dickinson shooting this well probably has a little bit to do with two things. The first was that they were just hot from three-point range. Sometimes they can hit from deep, just ask Purdue.

Secondly, while the Illini were able to adjust relatively quickly on the offensive end, defense is a different ball of wax. We are missing a key defender, and the adjustment without him is going to take some time. The result is less communication, more turnovers, and cleaner shot attempts by the opposing team.

I think Illinois will start locking down on the perimeter once again. Illinois is going to start getting practices in with the unit we have right now, and that will help us gel better on defense. Look for the three-point defense to be much better entering the Big Ten season.