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Illinois’ offense just found a new gear

They’ve shown great offensive efficiency the past two weeks.

TCR // Craig Pessman

Since losing Terrence Shannon Jr. to suspension, the Illini have excelled offensively. According to www.barttorvik.com, Illinois ranks #1 in adjusted offensive efficiency since Dec. 23, the day after Terrence Shannon’s last game.

Do I think this team is better without TSJ? Absolutely not. He’s arguably their best athlete, best defender, and nearly unstoppable in transition. Taking him off the team doesn’t automatically make them better and I believe they have higher upside with him on the court.

However, the rest of the team has definitely stepped up in his absence:

Marcus Domask

Domask has become the Illini’s most dependable scoring threat. He has the ability to take defenders off the dribble, play in the mid-post, and he continues to get to the free throw line. In the game against Northwestern last week Coach Underwood found a matchup he liked, and encouraged Domask to attack when the undersized Boo Buie was switched onto him as seen below:

He’s also grown to love a good step back jumper:

Domask is averaging 21 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game over the last four games. He should continue to be a reliable first option.

Coleman Hawkins

There aren’t many centers like him. He makes a significant impact on both ends of the floor.

If centers are forced to guard him, they’re tasked with chasing him around the perimeter which opens up driving lanes for his teammates. And if those same centers decide to sag into the paint to provide rim protection or go under on ball screens, they’re looking at a 52% three-point shooter over the last 4 games. He’s a matchup nightmare as of late.

He’s also made his presence felt on the defensive end. He can switch every screen and is comfortable defending guards on the wing. His length allows him to be a solid rim protector as well.

Quincy Guerrier

You can’t keep this guy off the glass. He’s averaging 9.3 rebounds and 14 points per game over the last four games. He has stepped up as the secondary scorer that this team needed. He has the ability to take his defender off the dribble and finish in the paint, and has been a reliable three-point shooter. Having a veteran with his size and skill has been a luxury this season.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Rodgers

Rodgers had quite a bounce back performance against Michigan State after a very underwhelming game against Purdue. Purdue head coach Matt Painter simply told Zach Edey to stay in the lane and not chase Rodgers around the perimeter, which made him a non-factor on offense. Against Michigan State, he was aggressive and forced his defender to commit just enough for him to blow by with his quickness and nifty footwork. He may still struggle against teams that park their big man in the paint, but Underwood will definitely have a better strategy the next time they face off against Purdue.

Justin Harmon

Similar to Guerrier, Harmon has really stepped up his scoring effort averaging 13.3 points per game over the last 4 outings. He’s shooting 46% from three on the year and has been a great on ball defender. Brad Underwood seems to trust him as the late game point guard option. Against MSU the preferred lineup was Harmon, Domask, Goode, Guerrier, and Hawkins down the stretch.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This team is playing really well at a crucial point in their season. A home game against Maryland awaits on Sunday, with a game in Ann Arbor against Michigan on Thursday. The race for the Big Ten regular season title is on.