Connect with us


Illinois Basketball: 3 Observations from Purdue



In a season full of ups and downs, Illinois took its fans on one last roller coaster ride in the regular season finale. The Illini rallied from a 24 point second-half deficit to tie, but came up short in the end. Purdue was able to close it out 76-71.

1. A microcosm of the season

The Illini found themselves down big early once again. This has become an unfortunate habit for them. After struggling with turnovers, the Illini allowed Purdue too many easy baskets in transition, not giving their half-court defense a chance. When the turnovers cleaned up in the second half Illinois closed the gap. However, without any healthy point guards, the execution down the stretch waivered with the help of some calls from the officials.

At this point you just kind of have to expect some kind of deficit for this squad. Whether it be cold shooting or turnovers, there are periods of being stuck in the mud. I much prefer the missed threes to the turnovers, and today is a perfect example of why. Most missed shots give them a chance to get back, but even a slow, unathletic team like Purdue can punish turnovers. If Jayden Epps continues to miss time, they will also need to be more on point down the stretches of these tight games.


When the Full Ride All Big Ten teams come out, and later the conference awards, I doubt Coleman Hawkins will receive much love. Due to a combination of team record and personal uneven play, Hawkins never got the narrative going for the media to award his season. However at least one person will have voted for him as conference defensive player of the year and you’re reading his recap.

Hawkins is a truly dominant defender in how many things he does for Illinois on that side of the ball. He frustrated National Player of The Year frontrunner Zach Edey. Much like he did against Michigan star Hunter Dickinson, Hawkins battled hard for position early, allowing the Illini’s double teams to come at better angles, and not letting Edey bury him where he could get easy shots. Edey finished -10 on the game, and Hawkins was a massive part of that.

3. Lights On

With the regular season out of the way, the Illini end up missing the double bye in this weeks Big Ten Tournament. Based on the results today, they were locked out anyway. However, the loss did not improve their seeding. From here on their destiny is in their hands. It hasn’t really ever felt like Illinois was in danger of missing the tournament after defeating Texas, but now the time has come. Illinois will likely be a 7, 8, 9 or 10 seed no matter what happens in the Big Ten tournament. It’s not the easiest road but as they showed today, and really all year, they can play with just about anyone in the country.

Due to them being ‘safe’ so early in the season, I have kind of felt like there was never any true desperation for this squad. Maybe after the 0-3 conference start, but even then, it was hard to tell. With the season now hanging on each game, I am interested to see if there is a level still to go. We see them hawk down these ranked teams, maybe the pressure of the season on the line will bring that out for more than 15ish minutes a game. With the status of Epps still unclear, Illinois will need to be desperate to advance.

Illinois finishes the regular season 20-11, 11-9 in conference play. They will play on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament, and based on other results today will play either Purdue or whoever gets second in the league if they win.

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.