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Illinois Basketball Dominates Opening Exhibition Game



Illinois Basketball Dominates Opening Exhibition Game
Mar 15, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood speaks during the press conference before their opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball Dominates Opening Exhibition Game

Illinois Basketball is back! Finally, after a long first half to the football season, basketball is starting back up. Illinois played an exhibition game against the Ottawa Braves on Friday night. Ottawa is a division 2, NAIA school. Therefore, not much substantial can be taken away. However, this is the time to create good habits and work on key foundational concepts. Illinois Basketball won by a large margin as they dominated 116-65.

Again, a game against an NAIA team is nothing to write home about. Despite this, I had a few key observations

Domask the Glue Guy

Marcus Domask is the Glue guy that was sorely missing last year. He just did all of the little things that never happened last year. Whether it was consistent effort on the offensive glass or dropping a skip pass right in the shooter’s pocket, Marcus Domask did it all. Domask and Luke Goode do a great job of complimenting Ty Rodgers, Coleman Hawkins and Terrence Shannon Jr in the starting lineup. Both players provide a level of spacing and basketball savvy that will open up plenty of lanes for the other three.

Amani Hansberry was also very impressive. The four-star freshman is just very scrappy and absolutely dominated the boards. He oftentimes found a way to tip a ball when the possession looked like it was going the other way. I truly think that Amani Hansberry will carve out a role for this year. The freshman had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Better Shot Selection

Remember those stepback 3’s that Matthew Mayer and Coleman Hawkins threw up last year? I hope those days are gone. Illinois moved the ball way better than last year and looked way more organized. Last year was a lot of “randomness” on offense, which could be hit or miss. Illinois looked a lot more organized and disciplined. Despite some missed shots, they never took bad shots. This is a huge step in the right direction for a program looking to rebound from some very sloppy play last year.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. Ty Rodgers is the “point-guard”, however he really was not put in that many situations that reflected this. Rodgers basically brought the ball up the floor and crashed the glass throughout the entire game. He did not initiate offense through pick-and-rolls or through any guard read situations that often. Ty Rodgers will need to be the guy at the point-guard spot if Illinois is to have any success. Bring on Kansas.

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Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.