Illinois Basketball: 3 Observations From the Ohio State Victory

Illinois Basketball

Feb 3, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard D.J. Williams (0) dribbles the ball in the first half at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball team hosted the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday night and came away with the biggest win of the season.

Illinois now moves to 11-4 on the year and continues their quest to the postseason.

Here are three observations from Ohio State win.

DJ Williams is Actually a Crucial Piece

During the big win against Ohio State on Sunday, forward DJ Williams received 15 minutes of game action.

This may not seem like a lot of minutes but in reality, it was the third most minutes Williams has played this season.

These weren’t garbage minutes, though.  These minutes were actually crucial to the Illini victory over the Buckeyes.

With about 6:08 left in the first half, star player Malcolm Hill received his second foul of the game.  This is really early in the contest to be receiving foul No. 2.

John Groce wisely sent Hill to the bench so he could save him for the second half.  At this time, the Illini had the lead 27-21 over Ohio State.

Williams substituted into the game for Hill and really did well.

Illinois didn’t miss a beat with Hill on the bench and Williams playing the three-spot.  Their lead actually increased from six points all the way up to an 11-point lead at half-time.

Williams came into the game to replace a foul-troubled Hill and Illinois kept on increasing the lead.  This is exactly what we want coming off the bench.

Throughout the rest of the game, Williams was sprinkled into action.  He finished with 2 points, 1 block, and 1 rebound.  But, no one can dispute that his minutes in the first half were huge in this game.

Dec 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Tracy Abrams (13) reacts during the first half against the Brigham Young Cougars at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Groce Finding Right Formula for Point Guard

I have said previously that playing point guard Jaylon Tate 15-20 minutes is not good for the Illinois basketball team because he just doesn’t bring enough to the table.

Well, in the game against Ohio State, Tate received less than 15 minute and the Illini came away with a huge victory.

Tracy Abrams is and should always be the starting point guard on this basketball team.  He needs to stay out of foul trouble and receive over 30 minutes per game.

Against Ohio State, Abrams dropped 16 points and 4 rebounds in the victory.  These were huge minutes at the point guard position.

The backup and only other point guard that played was Tate.  He didn’t score and only had 1 rebound and 2 assists, but his defense was pretty solid.

Tate ended up having a steal and really was a defensive stopper at times for the Illini.  He made up for his lack of offensive production on the defensive end of the court.

When the final horn blew, Tate ended up with a plus-minus of plus-eight on the night.  Illinois was up eight points when Tate was on the court.

Let’s not get this skewed, though.  I want to see more Te’Jon Lucas and less Tate still because I think Lucas brings more to the court.  But, against Ohio State, Tate got the job done.

Dec 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Maverick Morgan (22) shoots as Missouri Tigers forward Russell Woods (25) defends during a basketball game at Scottrade Center. Illinois won 75-66. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Maverick Morgan is Key

The Illinois basketball team is now 11-4 on the season after the big win against Ohio State.

This was a game where the Illini scored 75 points and 11 of those points were from big man Maverick Morgan.

Morgan finished the game with 11 points and 6 rebounds.  This is pretty good production coming off the bench and playing 25 minutes.

This has been a trend the entire season, though.

Morgan has played pretty well lately.  Four of his last five games have been in double-figures scoring and he has averaged 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game this season.

But, when you look at Morgan’s scoring in relation to the victories for the Illini there is a clear connection there.

Whenever Morgan scores at least six points in a game the Illini are 10-0.  That means whenever he scores less than six points the Illini are 1-4.

Morgan is developing into a nice center.  He needs to continue to develop so the Illini can continue winning this season.

The correlation between victories and Morgan’s point production is real.  Illinois needs to continue getting him involved so the future can be bright for this program.

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