The No. 4 Marquette Golden Eagles came to Champaign on Tuesday and beat our No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini by a score of 71-64.
There was a stretch in the second half where it appeared like Illinois was in control of the game, but a mid-second half run by Marquette proved to be too much to overcome for the Illini.
So, what went right and what went wrong for the orange and blue? Here are my thoughts.
Offensive consistency? Still an issue.
Think back to last season. The clear lack of point guard play and three-point shooting made for a rough offensive season (for the most part).
Illinois still managed to earn 20 wins on the year, but it was clear that the team couldn't hang with the best teams in the conference and country. Yes, Illinois upset UCLA and Texas early in the year, but looking back, those wins were flukes. The team lost nearly every other Quad 1 game it played.
Now, as we review the team’s first Quad 1 game this season, we see similar issues arise. The Illini notched 8 assists and 15 turnovers, and shot 11-of-33 from beyond the arc.
Brad Underwood has claimed Ty Rodgers is his point guard for the past couple months. He’s got 3 assists in 3 games and doesn't appear to be capable of “running” an offense.
Underwood claimed this team would be improved shooters, but would take fewer three-point shots. They’re shooting 31% on 27 attempts per game. Last year’s team shot 31% on 25 attempts per game.
It’s early in the season and Marquette is an elite team. But the offensive consistency doesn't appear to have improved. This team still shoots threes at an alarming rate and has long stretches of scoreless basketball.
Dain Dainja will have to earn his minutes.
Dain Dainja played 3 minutes against Marquette. Let me repeat that. Dain Dainja played 3 minutes against Marquette.
Man, was that shocking to see. Dain showed tons of promise in his first real season of college basketball last year, and then was essentially a DNP in the team’s first big game this year.
When you look into it, it can start to make a bit more sense. Dain is a non-shooter and can clog the lane on offense. He can’t do much outside of the paint on defense either. Coleman Hawkins and Quincy Guerrier are also two super talented forwards who will play 25+ minutes per game ahead of Dain.
But still, the man needs more than 3 minutes in a game like this. When shots aren't falling (which will likely happen often), he's proven to be a scoring threat in the low post. He dominated offensively in multiple games last year.
Final at @StateFarmCenter:— Matthew Stevens (@matthewcstevens) January 14, 2023
Illinois 75, Michigan State 69
Dain Dainja with 20 points and 7 rebounds as #Illini (12-5, 3-3) outscore MSU 42-29 in the second half for a key Big Ten win (Illinois' third straight league victory). pic.twitter.com/VkwRCUmvS1
Dain’s minutes are clearly going to be determined on a nightly basis and will be matchup-dependent. He’s going to have to prove he can continue to be effective against great teams.
Coleman is slumping.
From what we know, there was a legitimate chance Coleman Hawkins could've been an NBA Draft pick last summer. He opted to return to Champaign instead.
His game hasn't looked NBA-worthy so far this season, at least offensively.
Hawkins is averaging 4.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 3.3 APG in three games this season. He’s shooting 31% from the floor and 14% from 3.
Against Marquette, Coleman shot 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also had 5 turnovers, but did tally 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks.
Hawkins just hasn’t looked like himself to begin the season. He’s had the ball in his hands more this year than any year before which could be a cause of his slump.
The lack of consistent point guard play and Coleman’s versatility mean that he has to do a lot more on offense than he should have to. It's why not having a true point guard is so important.
I’m sure Coleman will get things figured out soon. He’s had poor stretches before and has bounced back, so hopefully this slump is no different.
Goode and Domask can hoop.
Luke Goode and Marcus Domask kept Illinois in the game.
They combined to go 7-of-14 from three-point range, while the rest of the team combined to shoot just 4-of-19.
Goode hit a couple of clutch threes in both halves to make sure the game didn't get out of hand.
Huge Trey for Luke Goode who is 3/4 from 3. pic.twitter.com/s5NGnjIJvE— Dariush Takhtehchian, M.D (@takhtehchianmd) November 15, 2023
Domask was consistent throughout the game, scoring from all three levels.
The two veterans also combined for 10 rebounds and 0 turnovers.
Goode and Domask have already proven to be scorers in previous years, but showing up and balling on a big stage like this is a new development.
Domask needs to continue to be a consistent third option and Goode needs to keep being a trusted scorer off the bench if this team wants to find success this season.
There were positives and negatives from the Marquette game. It’s not the end of the world that the Illini lost. They’ll probably have at least a dozen more Quad 1 opportunities before the Big Dance.
But like we saw last season, if you continue to let these potential big time wins slip away from you, it’s probably not a good omen for your March success.