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Inside the Box Score: Rutgers

Make that two in a row for Underwood & co.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Getting off to a good start

FINALLY, Illinois was able to string together not one, but two solid halves. If you watched the game wire-to-wire, you probably started off a big worried but felt more relaxed by halftime. That’s because Illinois shot 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field in the first 20 minutes. That included seven three-pointers.

Considering Rutgers was first in the Big Ten in scoring defense coming into the game, ending the first half with 41 points was a decent start. And putting up 91 on the night was even better.

Shoot ‘em up

Illinois hasn’t exactly blown anyone out of the water this year with its shooting percentage, but those numbers will quickly increase if they have more games like Tuesday.

On the night, the Fighting Illini were 41 percent from three-point range and 56 percent from the field. I should reiterate that Rutgers was first in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation in scoring defense coming in.

I don’t think any clipboards got broken tonight.

Balanced Attack

It is also a nice sight to see more than just Leron or Trent having good offensive nights. Kipper had 19, Alstork had 12 and Finke had 11 points on Tuesday night. That made for five Illini in double-figures, which has not happened much this year.

Forcing the Issue

A lot of people criticize Illinois’ defensive strategy because it can often lead to easy baskets. The aggressive on-ball defense and pressure can be especially vulnerable when there isn’t a rim protector (hint: Illinois doesn’t really have this). We’ve seen games where Illinois has given up a lot of points.

The Illini are also fifth in the nation in turnovers forced per game, with West Virginia in second and (gasp) Stephen F. Austin in first. Rutgers had 25 turnovers. Coincidence? I think not.

Another One

It seems like we write about this kid after every game. Trent Frazier had another incredible night, going 6-of-9 from the floor and and 5-of-7 from beyond-the-arc to finish with 17 points. He also had four assists, but he really sparked the Illini to gain a big lead in the first half. Where do you think we would be this year without him?

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Make It a Double

Okay, so winning two games in a row isn’t really a stat. But we need to make sure everyone knows. Illinois hasn’t lost since Monday, Jan. 22.