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Illinois Basketball: 3 Observations from Iowa



Coming in winning seven of their last eight, Illinois was unable to close out an 81-79 thriller in Iowa City. The Illini led at half, and were up by as much as eight in the second half.

1. Played by Perkins

If you missed the game, and someone told you Illinois made as many threes, outrebounded Iowa by 11 and their three leading scorers went under their average you’d have to feel pretty good. However, despite holding down Iowa’s shooters and primary weapons, it was Tony Perkins who was the difference with a career high 32 points.

While Brad Underwood will be happy with some of Perkins shots, pull up two-point jump shots, the Illini also let him get to the line 16 times. Perkins did a good job of physically attacking the Illini’s drop coverage and may have gotten the advantage of some home whistles. Everyone got their shot on him. Everyone seemed to keep fouling. I mentioned in the preview the Illini had to play above the refs in this building. There were poor whistles against them, but there were also some times where at least from the Armchair it looked like the Illini were thinking about the last call.

2. Terrence’s Troubles

Since 26 points in their loss to Indiana in January, Terrence Shannon Jr. hasn’t eclipsed 20 points. This three game streak is the second longest such streak since he went seven games under 20 in November before the Illini shifted their schemes. Yes it’s an arbitrary number, but Illinois need Shannon to be a source of scoring against the best teams they play. Matthew Mayer had a team high 21 despite some foul trouble, and with Shannon struggling it was Freshman Jayden Epps stepping up from the perimeter. Epps continues to show his expertise getting to just the right angle for a layup. He is so strong with the ball, and thus is able to play through Big Ten contact. Epps’ progression gives the Illini a way to survive without Shannon getting his, but they need him in form if they want to make a run in March.

3. Dain Delight

When this season is over, Dain Dainja’s highlight reel will easily be over five minutes long. He had a couple of overly aggressive fouls on Perkins trying to disrupt in his rhythm in that pick and roll, but this was another high profile Big Ten game Dain was one of the best players on the floor for. He showed just about everything in his bag, making hook shots, showing nice footwork as a short roll man, and not to forget him dropping in a short floater with a swish that looked more like a player a half foot shorter than him.

With Epps’ noted improvement on the perimeter, the picture for next year is becoming clearer and clearer. Especially after another mostly positive showing from Ty Rodgers, the Illinois talent depth is showing. It didn’t lead to a win today, but as Perkins showed, having a role guy who can create offense for himself is a huge asset.

With the loss the Illini move to 16-7, 7-5 in conference. It was a missed chance to further solidify themselves above the 5-loss car crash in the middle of the standings. As it is the only matchup with Iowa, it might also bite regarding seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. Something about these teams makes it feel like they’ll see each other again. There were a lot of things they did well, but in games like this the margin can be just one bad thing. There are winnable games coming up, and if they play like they did today they will be just fine.

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.