The Illinois Fighting Illini (12-14, 4-9) responded to their recent loss against Northwestern in a big way on Tuesday night by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-20, 0-13), 82-66. This was the second and final scheduled meeting between the two teams so, barring another meeting in the conference tournament, the Illini have swept the season series.
Malcolm Hill led the way for Illinois with 22 points on 7-13 shooting. Rutgers' leading scorer was Jonathan Laurent with 18 points.
Illinois was on fire from the start and got out to an early 13-4 lead thanks to a few three-pointers from Jalen Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill. The Scarlet Knights did manage to get their act together after the first media timeout, though, and began to take advantage of Illinois' weak transition defense. Luckily, Groce opted to apply some pressure via a 3/4 court press and the pace of play was soon back in favor of the Illini.
Illinois entered halftime with a 47-25 lead.
The Orange and Blue picked up right where they left off after the break. Here is a summary of the final 20 minutes:
The main story of the game may have been the play of Illinois' freshmen. Coleman-Lands has obviously been spectacular lately, but the recent emergence of D.J. Williams has been a huge boost. The six-foot-seven forward has brought some much need hustle and energy to the table, and it appears to be rubbing off on his teammates. Tuesday night was probably his best all-around game as a member of the Illini.
D.J. Williams pic.twitter.com/6QfdeNwAJj— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) February 17, 2016
And the ball movement! Illinois was actually passing the ball and it was beautiful!
I know it's Rutgers but Illinois rarely shows this kind of ball movement. pic.twitter.com/gMSmsBIJuI— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) February 17, 2016
D.J. Williams via tremendous movement pic.twitter.com/hFvdt4RX9I— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) February 17, 2016
Malcolm Hill reportedly suffered a hamstring injury during practice on Monday, but that really didn't have an impact on his performance -- he had a great game. Hill's entire arsenal was working, as he was hitting shots from behind the arch, from mid-range, and in transition. In addition to his 22 points, he had 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
Here are two things we learned tonight:
1. Rutgers is bad
Rutgers is bad.
2. ADvantage, Illinois
We made it, Twitter fam.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) February 17, 2016
Our long national nightmare has finally come to an end. https://t.co/d8tRfoBSal
Illinois Fighting Illini Stats
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Stats