Ten of those came from the Illini’s two best players, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins.
The Illini turned the ball over on 18.5% of their possessions against Marquette on Tuesday night (Synergy Sports). That’s nearly one out of every five possessions that ended in a turnover. For this team to reach its full potential, the sloppy play needs to be cleaned up.
But turnovers weren’t the only issue…
Hawkins is still struggling to get going on the offensive end. He scored 5 points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field (1-of-5 from three). He now has 14 points and 10 assists total over the first three games. For context on where his performance against Marquette ranks, Coleman has only had three worse offensive games over his entire career at Illinois (Kenpom).
Dain Dainja played four minutes, two fewer than freshman Amani Hansberry. Those limited minutes led to a turnover, an unnecessary goaltending call, and a foul on a made basket. He also limits the Illini’s ability to switch every screen on the defensive end. It’s apparent that Dainja’s playing time will be dependent on the matchup any given night. His minutes per game has gone from 20.5 last year to 11.3 this year.
Outside of Luke Goode, the bench didn’t provide much from the guard spots. Justin Harmon was not very effective, and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn missed all three of his three-point attempts.
The Illini also had a disappointing five minute stretch in the second half at a crucial time. From the 11:21 mark to 6:21 they were held scoreless and had three turnovers. Two of those turnovers by Hawkins.
The drought finally ended with a three by Goode. The Illini were very much still in the game, only down three, but they were never able to take the lead. More careless turnovers and poor shot attempts were the story down the stretch.
With all that being said, the Illini were in a position to beat the No. 4 team in the country late in the second half, on a night where a lot of things went wrong.
Marcus Domask played extremely well. He went 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points. He plays very composed, and can score in many different ways. He had a nice back to the basket post up that led to a mid-range jumper in the paint early in the second half. Domask’s Southern Illinois highlights reveal that this was a big part of his game. We got a glimpse of this against Marquette and he should continue to generate high quality shots moving forward.
Luke Goode continued his hot shooting. He went 4-of-7 from three and provides a nice scoring option off the bench. He also snatched a crucial rebound from Tyler Kolek late in the game, finishing with 4 rebounds. He’s shooting 50% from beyond the arc so far through three games.
The defense looked good at times. When Coleman Hawkins played the 5, the Illini switched every ball screen. Here was an impressive defensive possession by the Illini, and Ty Rodgers in particular.
Any player who has the ball is Ty Rodgers’ man.— Big Ten Men's Basketball (@B1GMBBall) November 15, 2023
Check out the Illinois sophomore’s impressive defensive possession last night. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/LsYzOtP6AH
This type of energy on defense wasn’t sustained throughout the entire game, but the potential is there. The Illini rank 15th in defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.
The Illini also tallied 7 blocks as a team. Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins had chase-down blocks that looked like high probability fast break points for Marquette. Their athleticism can really affect teams in transition on both ends.
Surprisingly, free throw shooting was not an issue. The Illini shot 11-of-13 as a team against Marquette. Sustaining this will be critical. Even after a hot night at the charity stripe they still rank 319th out of 362 Division I teams in free throw shooting.
This was a disappointing loss, but Tyler Kolek is a tough matchup for any team, and he might be the best point guard the Illini face all year. He exposed some holes in the game plan, but this is just game three for a team with a lot of new faces that’s still working out the kinks. Marquette ranks 8th in offensive efficiency and 20th in defensive efficiency in the country (Kenpom).
Brad Underwood’s team won these top-10 matchups early in the season last year (UCLA and Texas), but ultimately found no success in March. We’ll see if the opposite is true with this year’s bunch.