When it comes to wins and losses, substance trumps style. Anything for a win. Even if it means shooting 28.6 percent from the field like Illinois did — and had to overcome — in a 54-51 victory against Rutgers.
What it means
Good thing the Illini apparently know how to win ugly. With 14 games remaining in the grit and grind Big Ten, odds are they’ll play a similar matchup or two to Saturday’s rock fight with the Scarlet Knights.
Rest. Plus some time to practice and not just focus on game prep. Illinois doesn’t play again until another Saturday home game against Northwestern, giving Brad Underwood’s squad time to iron out some offensive wrinkles.
Player of the game
Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu
If Wednesday’s win at Wisconsin didn’t prove it, Saturday’s victory against Rutgers made it clear that Dosunmu is going to have the ball in his hands late in the second half with the game on the line. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard delivered — again — scoring the Illini’s final eight points thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting to finish with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Illinois B- | Rutgers C+
Dosunmu didn’t get a whole lot of help given fellow guards Trent Frazier, Alan Griffin and Da’Monte Williams shot a combined 2 of 18 from the field (even if Griffin’s lone make was a pivotal three-pointer). The Scarlet Knights weren’t in much better shape beyond Jacob Young’s team-high 16 points.
Illinois C+ | Rutgers D-
When two teams combine for 84 missed shots, rebounds are going to be in vast supply. Kofi Cockburn took advantage, tying his career high with 17 boards to go with 11 points that made him the only other Illini in double figures. But it was a rough night for both Illinois’ Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Rutgers center Myles Johnson.
Illinois C- | Rutgers B-
Griffin has been the Illini’s spark off the bench in the new year. Productive, too. While Griffin struggled offensively against the Scarlet Knights, he did pull in eight rebounds. That left it to Andres Feliz to provide a scoring punch off the bench, and after a rough first half he finished with eight points. Young scored 16 of Rutgers’ 21 bench points.
Illinois C+ | Rutgers C-
Teams that shoot 28.6 percent from the field at home typically don’t win. Unless they hound their opponent defensively into being just as inefficient. Like the Illini did against the Scarlet Knights.