Illinois basketball’s second matchup against Rutgers this season had less drama than the team triple-overtime win earlier in the season.
The Illini had little trouble with the Scarlet Knights on Tuesday night at State Farm Center. With a full-team performance offensively and few mistakes on the defensive end of the ball, Illinois easily defeated Rutgers 82-66.
After battling through injuries and inconstancy throughout the entire, head coach John Groce was happy to see his team put up a complete performance.
“We didn’t close like we wanted,” Groce said. “We got contributions from a lot of guys today. We practiced well this week … you’re seeing individuals improving, which is good for our team.”
Junior guard Malcolm Hill led the scoring for the Illini, finishing with 22 points. Jonathan Laurent led the way for the Scarlet Knights, finishing with 18.
The rout began early when the Illini came out hot offensively, starting with a 13-4 lead almost 10 minutes into the game. Illinois shot 17-of-29 from the field and 6-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, leading to a 47-25 lead at the half. Players on the team shared the scoring, with Hill leading with 12, Jalen Coleman-Lands with nine, and Maverick Morgan and Kendrick Nunn each with six.
Rutgers had 10 turnovers during the first half and Illinois took advantage, scoring 14 points off of the Scarlet Knights’ turnovers.
Illinois continued with its large lead for much of the second and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Players continued to share the ball well while there were few mishaps on the defensive side of the ball. The Scarlet Knights attempted to make a comeback late into the game, but the Illini withstood the charge.
Illinois finished the game shooting 27-of-59 from the field and 9-of-22 from 3-point range.
Hill had a strong game after a poor showing against Northwestern on Saturday. The junior guard shot 7-of-13 from the field and made both of his 3-point attempts. Hill seemed to have a slight limp during warmups before the game but showed that it didn’t have a big effect.
The guard did admit that his hamstring was an issue that bothered him but managed to overlook the pain.
“It was really tight and sore,” Hill said, “I wasn’t 100 percent, but I told myself that I’m 100 percent so that I can forget about it. My teammates said I was faking it.”
Morgan also put together another strong performance. The big man finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Michael Finke had 2 points and 4 rebounds and the duo allowed xx points in the paint, but the two teams tied with 3 rebounds.
Rutgers struggled to get into a flow offensively, finishing with 16 turnovers. The struggles came after freshman point guard Corey Sanders was suspended Monday for four games for violating team rules. The guard averaged 16.2 points per game and 1.6 steals.
Illinois will try to continue the good performance at Madison when the Illini square off against the Badgers for the second time this season after losing the first. Groce knows that his team will need to play like it Tuesday night it if wants to be completive in the Big Ten again.
“We’ve got to be that kind of team where everyone brings it,” Groce said. “The guys know you have to be mature if you want to compete in this league.”