4. What a defensive effort by the Illini
Putting up 88 points against any Big Ten team is an impressive feat. Illinois looked good offensively the entire night, and it paid off with some big numbers from some big-time players.
Illinois was coming into a game against an offensively talented Michigan squad, though. The Wolverines have a ton of offensive firepower, and they are a dangerous team if you fall asleep on defense. That didn’t happen, though.
This was one of the best defensive nights of the season for the Illini. Michigan has been great getting to the free throw line this season, but Illinois held the Wolverines to just 12 free throw attempts in Ann Arbor. That is a shocker.
I loved the Illini three-point defense. Michigan came into the game as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. They were hitting three-pointers at a clip of 38.3%, which ranked No. 21 in the nation.
On Thursday, Illinois held the Wolverines to 3-of-13, 23.1%, from three-point range. This is an incredible feat, and it had a lot to do with not being lazy around screens and the great length of the Illini players. Michigan hasn’t played a team like Illinois. Every starter is at least 6-foot-6. That is a huge advantage.
Illinois was able to shut down a talented Michigan squad. We might be a man down, but the current players on the court have risen up and are playing some of the best basketball of the season. The Illini defense on Thursday night was special.