So many fans are focused on the shooting percentages for the illinois basketball team right now..... and with good reason. The Illini are only shooting 39.7 percent from the field in league play. They are shooting at 24.5 percent from 3-point territory. In conference play...the Illini have picked up only 57 assists compared to 91 turnovers in 7 games.
But it is on the defensive end where the numbers reveal what has been the biggest issue in games early in the conference season. Opponents are shooting at a 44 percent clip on offense....and nearly 38 percent from 3-point land. Opponents are getting too many layups and put-back baskets .....and keeping points in the paint for opponents to a reasonable number has been a challenge.
The Illini did not play with an edge on defense in West Lafayette and got stung by an average Purdue team. They came out flat in Madison and got down 14-0 before the seats were warm at the Kohl Center. Northwestern carved up the Illini defense in the first 10 minutes at the Assembly Hall.
The defensive effort was better against Minnesota and Michigan....but those teams are better than the Illini this season...and have too many offensive weapons to overcome....for most teams...not just Illinois.
John Groce has been preaching to his team all year to not let struggles on the offensive end affect their effort on the defensive end of the floor. He has received mixed results on that front a month into the Big Ten season.
A big tough physical Michigan State team awaits Thursday night. We know they play good defense. The Illini need to match them in intensity and effort.
They also need to make open shots when they get the chance.