Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over Northwestern

Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives
Jan 2, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) drives / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois basketball bucked all the doubters on Tuesday night, as we came out of the gates hot and never let up.

There were some individuals out there who thought the Illini might struggle now that we are a man down. Some of those individuals even had a vote in the AP Top 25 and moved us from No. 11 to out of the ranking altogether.

Well, on Tuesday night, Illinois once again proved that we belong. Northwestern came to town and quickly realized this was an Illini team chock-full of talented players who have a ton of experience. A 17-point halftime lead for Illinois ended up turning into a 96-66 drubbing of the Wildcats.

Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over Northwestern

1. Marcus Domask had one of those games again

The talent Illinois has on the roster is quite impressive. One of the veteran leaders who showed up on Tuesday night was Marcus Domask.

Domask’s inconsistency on paper has been astonishing. He just put up 32 points on 11-of-15, 73.3%, shooting from the field against Northwestern. That was only his second time this season shooting better than 50% from the field.

Illinois needed Domask, though. He was incredible against the Wildcats and had one of those special games that we have seen a few times this season. Domask has now gone for over 30 points twice this year, the other game coming against No. 11 Florida Atlantic.

An underrated thing Domask did on Tuesday night was how smart he was with his shot. He didn’t take three-point attempts like he has in the past. He was aggressive toward the rim, and it paid off.

This season, Domask is only shooting 20.7% from three-point range, which is a horrific number. But if you take his three-point shooting out of the equation, the star transfer is shooting 61.7% from two-point range. I would imagine the coaching staff saw those numbers and told him to drive to the basket.

Domask is a really good player who can tear teams up on the inside. I feel like, in the Northwestern game, he realized how incredibly talented he is inside the three-point arc. If this is the Domask we can get the rest of the season, Illinois is a legitimate threat to go deep in the NCAA tournament.