Box Score Breakdown: Minnesota @ Illinois

The Fighting Illini continued Big Ten Conference play this week welcoming the Minnesota Golden Gophers into Assembly Hall on Wednesday night. In this edition of the Box Score Breakdown, IlliniBoard.com looks at the effectiveness of the three guard lineup and applies Usage Rate to show how well the Illini moved the ball offensively against Minnesota.

The Fighting Illini have found things difficult in their first five games of Big Ten play, and it looked like they were in for another close game on Wednesday night halfway through the game against the Golden Gophers. The Illini only had an eight point lead heading into halftime, but that was garnered with starters Brian Randle and Rich McBride sitting next to the Illini coaching staff for most of the first half thanks to foul trouble.

The second half did not start out much better for the Illini either. The first ten minutes of the second half went by, and the winless in conference play Gophers will still hanging with the Fighting Illini in Champaign. That was not supposed to happen, heck Dan Monson probably did not expect to be down only nine points with 9:52 left on the clock.

It was at the 9:52 mark that Bruce Weber went with one of the more athletic lineups the Illini could put on the floor: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Rich McBride, Brian Randle, and James Augustine. The Illini would use the next 1:32 to go on a 7-0 run, extending their lead to 62-46 before Weber would sub in Shaun Pruitt for Brian Randle. Then, after the Illini and the Gophers exchanged baskets, Randle was right back at the scorer's table checking back into the game for Pruitt. The Illini defense clamped down on the Gophers, and the offense moved as smoothly as it had all Big Ten season. Over the next four minutes and twenty seconds, the Illini outscored the Gophers 12-2, and the game was over.

For the first time in Big Ten play, Bruce Weber was able to clear his bench at the end of a game. Dee Brown and James Augustine sat next to the coaches for the final three minutes of the game and watched as their teammates finished out the Gophers.

Wednesday's contest marked the first time two Illini players saw action in the Big Ten. Calvin Brock played his first minutes in conference play, as Rich McBride and Brian Randle were sitting on the bench in the first half with foul trouble. Walk on Chris Hicks also saw his first action of the Big Ten season on Wednesday night. The only Illini player eligible to play that did not play was Warren Carter, as he was being punished by Bruce Weber for "not taking care of business in a timely manner" earlier in the week.

FIVE MAN DETAILS

Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 Player 5 Differential Time on Floor
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Rich McBride Brian Randle James Augustine 17 5:52
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Brian Randle James Augustine 3 1:51
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Rich McBride Marcus Arnold James Augustine 3 1:02
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Rich McBride Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 2 2:46
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 2 2:30
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Calvin Brock Marcus Arnold James Augustine 2 2:13
Dee Brown Rich McBride Brian Randle Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 1 8:50
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Marcus Arnold James Augustine 1 3:38
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Calvin Brock Marcus Arnold James Augustine 0 1:33
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Rich McBride Marcus Arnold James Augustine 0 1:01
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Rich McBride Brian Randle Shaun Pruitt 0 0:49
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Calvin Brock Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 0 0:27
Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Calvin Brock Chris Hicks Marcus Arnold -1 1:58
Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Calvin Brock Brian Randle Marcus Arnold -1 1:13
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Brian Randle Marcus Arnold James Augustine -2 1:24
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Rich McBride Shaun Pruitt James Augustine -3 2:53


Best Five Man Unit: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, Rich McBride, Brian Randle, and James Augustine
Worst Five Man Unit: Dee Brown, Chester Frazier, Rich McBride, Shaun Pruitt, and James Augustine
  • It took Illinois almost three quarters of the game before the Illini started to play on all cylinders. In the first half, neither Brian Randle nor Rich McBride played many minutes as they were saddled with foul trouble, so Bruce Weber was forced to go deep on his bench to Calvin Brock, who had not played during the Big Ten season before Wednesday night.
  • It is interesting to note that over the first seven minutes of the second half, Weber left in the starting lineup the whole time, and all they could muster was a 13-13 start in the second half against the Gophers.
  • It was not until Illinois went small did they start to dominate the Gophers. With the Illini up only 52-46 after the under twelve minute TV timeout, Bruce Weber decided to go with a small lineup playing three guards and shifting Brian Randle to the four spot. Over the next eight-plus minutes, the Illini dominated the Gophers across four different lineups, all of which included three guards, and only one of which included Shaun Pruitt at the power forward position instead of Brian Randle.
GUARD / FORWARD COMBINATIONS

Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Differential Time on Floor
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Rich McBride 19 10:28
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Jamar Smith 6 7:59
Dee Brown Jamar Smith Calvin Brock 2 2:13
Dee Brown Rich McBride 1 8:50
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Rich McBride 0 3:55
Dee Brown Chester Frazier Calvin Brock 0 2:00
Chester Frazier Jamar Smith Calvin Brock -2 3:11
Dee Brown Jamar Smith -2 1:24


Best Guard Combination: Dee Brown, Jamar Smith, and Rich McBride (+19 in 10:28)
Worst Guard Combination: Dee Brown & Jamar Smith (-2 in 1:24)

  • Earlier in Big Ten play, the Illini struggled with the three guard lineup, but on Wednesday against the Gophers, the three guard lineup was the most effective lineup for Bruce Weber. In just under thirty minutes of time on the court with three guards, the Illini were +25, but in the ten minutes of time on the court with just two guards the Illini were -1, a sharp contrast from when the Illini performed better with bigger lineups against of Indiana earlier in conference play.
Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Differential Time on Floor
Brian Randle James Augustine 20 7:43
Marcus Arnold James Augustine 6 9:27
Brian Randle Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 1 8:50
Shaun Pruitt James Augustine 1 8:36
Brian Randle Shaun Pruitt 0 0:49
Chris Hicks Marcus Arnold -1 1:58
Brian Randle Marcus Arnold -1 1:13
Brian Randle Marcus Arnold James Augustine -2 1:24


Best Forward Combination: Brian Randle & James Augustine (+20 in 7:43)
Worst Forward Combination: Brian Randle, Marcus Arnold, and James Augustine (-2 in 1:24)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Player Name Differential
Dee Brown 26
James Augustine 26
Jamar Smith 23
Rich McBride 20
Brian Randle 18
Chester Frazier 4
Marcus Arnold 2
Shaun Pruitt 2
Calvin Brock 0
Chris Hicks -1


Best Player: Dee Brown & James Augustine (+26)
Worst Player: Chris Hicks (-1)

  • You know the game was a blowout when Chris Hicks is listed, and he is the "worst" player in the +/- differential. No other Illini player was negative, and all but Calvin Brock were in the positive column.
  • Calvin Brock made the most of his opportunities on Wednesday night. With McBride and Randle in foul trouble, the Illini needed Calvin Brock to show that he could come into the game and ensure the Illini did not lose ground to the opposition. That is exactly what he did on Wednesday night against the Golden Gophers. In his seven minutes of playing time, Brock picked up where Brian Randle left off as he lead the Illini in rebounding rate (he pulled down 24.84% of all rebounding opportunities when he was in the game) and scored two points. A very solid game that will hopefully give him confidence in himself, and Bruce Weber knowledge that Calvin can enter a close game and at minimum ensure the Illini don't lose ground to the opposition.
AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT USAGE RATE

IlliniBoard.com has looked at the Usage Rate of players before, but Wednesday evening's contest against the Golden Gophers provided a very nice ability to see the usage rate spread across the team for the first time all season. As defined by Basketball-Reference.com, the usage rate is:

A formula that estimates the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes played.
Defining the Usage Rate is just a mathematical combination to see how often a player does one of three possession defining items: get an assist on a made basket, turn the ball over, or take a shot.

Player Name UsgR (Season) UsgR (Minnesota)
James Augustine 17.05 18.12
Brian Randle 14.90 18.16
Shaun Pruitt 14.21 17.98
Dee Brown 22.20 14.76
Rich McBride 14.66 17.37
Chris Hicks 19.67 20.00
Chester Frazier 10.24 9.39
Calvin Brock 15.21 11.43
Jamar Smith 17.08 16.86
Marcus Arnold 15.69 13.60
Warren Carter 18.53 DNP-CD


What makes Wednesday night's Minnesota game an interesting time to look at Usage Rate is how pointedly different the numbers were from the rest of the season for the Illini. At the beginning of the season, and really even through the first five Big Ten games, the Illini offense could have been defined as watching Dee Brown do his thing. Against Minnesota, that didn't happen, in fact Dee use of offensive possessions was down dramatically over the previous games in the season.

While Dee's usage decreased (even with his five assists), almost all of his teammates usage increased, a very good sign for how the offense has increased its ball movement and at this point in the season has discovered it does not need Dee Brown to do everything to score.

If there is one thing this statistic also shows, it is how often a player looks to score when they have the basketball. Freshman point guard Chester Frazier is a great person to look at and see how little he actually looks to score when the ball is in his hand. His usage rate of 9.39 against Minnesota, and 10.24 across the entire season shows how little he looks for his own shot. Against the Gophers, there were numerous times when Chester would drive the ball into the lane, jump off his feet, and instead of looking to score he just tossed the ball out to the perimeter. These drives made the defense collapse, but they did nothing to set up a teammate for a shot, or even get himself one in the lane. It is good that he is not afraid to drive the ball to the lane, but he needs to have a purpose when he does it.


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