Illinois moved to 3-0 on the young season with a 82-73 win over DePaul. This was the first game between the two Illinois schools in 60 years. Illinois looked sloppy at times on both ends of the floor, but were able to hold off DePaul at home to stay undefeated.
Here are some top takeaways.
1. Foul Issues
This game was a foul fest. In total there were 59 fouls called — that’s nearly 1.5 fouls per minute. Illinois was called for 27 of those and gave up 21 points on free throws because of it.
Now many of these calls were questionable. Some DePaul players certainly embellished on offense fouls from the Illini, but beyond that the officials were calling a very tight game between two aggressive teams.
It seems to happen every year with all the new rules changes in college basketball — this year there are 27 changes — that referees call games tighter early on in the season until they are able to fully adjust to the rules. Illinois didn’t deserve a lot of the calls against them tonight, and the same could be said for DePaul.
Regardless, the Illini didn’t show an ability to adjust to how the game was being called. They allowed DePaul to enter the double bonus with 14:22 remaining in the second half.
Illinois will need to clean up their sloppy defensive play moving forward.
2. Mark Smith is awesome
Mark Smith only played 23 minutes due to foul trouble, but in those 23 minutes Smith put up 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assist, and a steal. Smith went 12-12 from the free throw line, and is 19-19 to start his Illinois career.
Smith has fantastic physical tools and showcased an ability to finish around the rim in traffics and the aggressiveness needed to get to the line. He is one of the most complete Illinois freshman in a long time.
If Smith can start hitting the three pointer consistently, he will be in contention for Big Ten Freshman of the year.
3. Three point shooting struggles continue
The Illini’s three point shooting woes continued tonight. The team finished 5-23 from deep after missing their first 8 attempts. The Illini are shooting just .231 from three on the season.
These numbers should go up, both because of regression to the mean and the team growing in confidence in the Underwood spread offense. There were many times where players passed up open catch and shoot opportunities. As the Illini learn this offense more and start thinking less, they can begin to play in a better rhythm.
Still, this is a problem early on for Illinois, but it is one that can and should change.