Illinois basketball went into St. Louis for the Braggin' Rights game and ran into what looked like the JV team for the Missouri Tigers.
The Illini controlled this game from the tip. Illinois secured the first double-digit scoring margin by the 12-minute mark in the first half. This quickly turned into a 25-point lead by halftime. Illinois would coast into a huge Braggin' Rights victory over Missouri, 97-73.
Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over Missouri
1. Illinois’ length got the best of Missouri
Coming into the game on Friday night, I thought that the Illini length would give the Tigers trouble. Missouri plays a smaller brand of basketball, and Illinois doesn’t start anyone shorter than 6-foot-6.
As the game played out, I quickly realized that my assumptions were correct. Illinois was bigger, faster, and stronger, and Missouri couldn’t handle the mismatches.
The defensive end of the court is what really stood out when it came to the length mattering. Illinois’ long arms and quick hands shut down the Tigers' main scorers. Sean East II went for 18 points but he only shot 8-of-17 from the field and 2-of-6 from three-point range.
I was impressed with how the Illinois wings shut down Tamar Bates as well. He had 10 points but failed to make his lone three-point attempt and only took seven shots for the game.
Illinois’ length also helped on the three-point arc. When you have to worry about your three-point shot getting blocked or at least messed with, then you start shooting from deeper and deeper. Missouri was chucking up pro-range three-pointers quite frequently, and that is why they shot 22.2% from three-point range on Friday night.
Even with the Tigers threw a 7-foot-5 big man in Connor Vanover at us, Illinois was able to handle it with ease. Vanover failed to score and went 0-of-4 on the night. He wasn’t much of a defensive stopper either, as Illinois’ guards and wings took the ball at him.
This was a great defensive performance for Illinois, and it had a lot to do with our great length. Come March, this will be a huge asset.