No. 1 Illini Cruise to 78-59 Win

The University of Illinois took the Assembly Hall court on Monday night with a number one ranking in the ESPN / USA Today Coaches and AP Polls for the first time since January 23, 1989. The previous two times Illinois had played with the "1" next to their name on the scoreboard, they lost at DePaul (in 1952) and at Minnesota (in 1989). The curse of the Number One ranking did not affect this Illini team, as they rolled to a 78-59 victory over Chicago State.

The Illini jumped out on Chicago State quickly and coasted from pretty much the start of the game. Once Illinois jumped out to the 13-4 lead, the Illini put it on cruise control and coasted for the rest of the evening. Chicago State would get the game as close as 17-13 with 11:18 left in the first half, but that was as close as they would get for the rest of the game. With Chicago State within four points, Illinois went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to build the lead up to 25-13. The Cougars would not get any closer than 9 from that point on.

Once again, the Fighting Illini were led by their backcourt. Luther Head was the high scorer for Illinois with 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Dee Brown was the only other Illinois player in double digits as he added 15 points to go with 9 assists and 2 steals. Their backcourt partner, Deron Williams, added 9 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Coming off his Big Ten Player of the Week award, Roger Powell scored 9 points and pulled down 4 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.

It appeared that one of Chicago State's goals heading into the game on Monday night was to slow down the Illini's transition game, and make them earn their points in the half court. The Cougars did slow down the Illini transition game as Illinois only scored 16 points in transition, but they drastically underestimated Illinois' ability to score in there half court set. When you are choosing ways to defend the Illini, you truly have to pick your poison: the full court game, or the half court offense. Either one, you will get scored on by the Fighting Illini.

Offensive Efficiency: 115.52
Defensive Efficiency: 87.38
Points per Possession (Offensive): 1.16
Points per Possession (Defensive): 0.87
Points per Shot Attempt (Offensive): 1.24
Points per Shot Attempt (Defensive): 1.28

Looking at these numbers, it is pretty obvious why Illinois was able to control the game against Chicago State: offensive execution and forcing turnovers on defense. When Chicago State got shots up towards the basket (they only took 46 compared to Illinois' 63), they were able to score at a better clip than the Illini. The problem for Chicago State was Illinois' defense forced them to turn the ball over 19 times.

One of the keys to Illinois' offensive efficiency on Monday night was the combination of shooting 50.8% from the floor (39.1% from three point range) and pulling down 17 offensive rebounds. Normally, a defensive team will pull down 70% of all missed shots, but Illinois crashed the offensive boards hard on Monday evening and rebounded 54.8% of their missed shots. The combination of forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive boards is why Illinois had 17 more shot attempts than Chicago State.

There will be no player by player breakdown for the Chicago State game. I am working on a break down of the first six games of the season for each player that I hope to have up before Thursday's game (at the latest it will be up before Saturday's game in the United Center), so I am using the time I would have used on breaking down the Illinois players in this game with that task.

  • I will never get sick of hearing any one say the words, "the number one ranked University of Illinois Fighting Illini." The Illini have been ranked Number One, one time in my lifetime (1989), and I hope they will be ranked at that spot for many more weeks.
  • Every time Illinois has been ranked Number One during a season, they have reached the Final Four.
  • If I had to pick on surprise this season, it would be the play of sophomore forward Warren Carter. Warren has taken advantage of the time he has received on the court, and has shown that he probably deserves more time in games that matter. He is nearly automatic from twelve feet on the baseline, and he is aggressive towards the glass. The only question I have about him is whether or not he will be quick enough to guard opposing wing forwards. If he is, he will continue to be a huge asset in replacing the injured Brian Randle.

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