Jan 3, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Jaylon Tate (1) talks with head coach John Groce in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 75-73. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
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The Illinois basketball team moved to 4-0 on the season as they beat the Detroit Titans 89-69.
In this game, the Illini did some things great but they also had some issues that I noticed.
Here are three observations from the Detroit victory.
Jaylon Tate Proving Me Wrong
Entering this season I was thinking Tracy Abrams was going to be the starting point guard and freshman Te’Jon Lucas would be the primary backup.
I assumed that this would be the rotation and the Illini would just work through the growing pains of Lucas being a true freshman.
Illinois also has Jaylon Tate as well. He was essentially the starting point guard the last two seasons during the Abrams injury era.
I had Tate slotted as the No. 3 point guard on the team because throughout his time starting with the Illini he hasn’t shown much in the way of being able to be a consistent Big Ten point guard.
But, in the time between the end of last season and the beginning of this season something has changed with Tate.
Tate has played 24.3 minutes per game in the four games the Illini have played. This is a slight bump in playing time from years past.
With that increase in minutes, Tate has also increased his points per game to 6 this season. The previous best for him was 3.6 PPG two seasons ago.
Tate has also found the ability to be an efficient passer as well. He is averaging 5.8 assists per game, which is double his career best of 2.9 APG from two seasons ago as well.
I was wrong about Tate through four games this season, but I want to see it against big-time competition coming up.
Illinois plays a tough non-conference coming up and the Big Ten is going to be a test. This is where we will see if Tate is legit or not this season.
Mar 3, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Jalen Coleman-Lands (5) shoots over Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) during the first half at Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Coleman-Lands Needs to Be Smarter
Now when I say Jalen Coleman-Lands needs to be smarter I don’t mean in everyday life. I am sure he is a very smart kid.
But, on the basketball court, Coleman-Lands needs to be smarter in the aspect of taking better shots.
I think Coleman-Lands is one of the best shooters we have ever seen don the orange and blue, but he isn’t Step Curry, yet.
There were multiple times where I saw Coleman-Lands get the ball early in the play clock and just chuck up a three-point shot.
This is not an efficient way to play offense and will bite the Illini against better competition.
I want Coleman-Lands to continue to shoot, though. He is a shooter and he needs to take shots because that is a great way to score for the Illini.
But, those shots need to come to Coleman-Lands. He can’t continue to force them or it will cost Illinois down the road.
Feb 7, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce talks to center Maverick Morgan (22) during the 1st half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
The Big Three Need More Rebounds
The Illinois basketball team has some pretty good rebounders that are smaller players. But, they need their big three to pull down more rebounds, though.
The big three for the Illini includes Michael Finke, Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr. All three of these players are 6-foot-10 or taller.
In the game against Detroit, these three players only had a total of 13 rebounds, which includes 0 rebounds from Morgan.
The previous DI game against Northern Kentucky was about the same as well. Finke had 11 rebounds, Morgan had 3 rebounds and Thorne had 0 rebounds.
This number needs to change if the Illini want to compete with the better teams in college basketball.
If you are one of these three players and are playing more than 20 minutes in a game, then you should be over 5 rebounds.
If Illinois can get a total of 20 rebounds out of this trio throughout the season then I see a lot of success in the future for the Illini.