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Illinois Basketball: How To Beat “Very Good” Iowa State

The Cyclones are loaded with athleticism, and will give the Illini a run for their elite 8 money



Illinois Basketball: How To Beat "Very Good" Iowa State
Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball: How To Beat “Very Good” Iowa State

Illinois Basketball is about 24 hours away from the biggest game in the programs recent history. Dating back to the 2005 national runner-up team, consisting of Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and the rest of the legendary 2005 Illini.  The Illini head east to Boston, to challenge T.J. Otzelberger and the east 2-seed, Iowa State.

The Cyclones are currently the number 1 defensive unit in the nation according to KenPom. Holding opponents to an average of only 61.3 ppg. Certainly the strong suit of this unit, as they struggle at times on offense. Iowa State scores an average of 75.5 ppg. Illinois, their sweet 16 matchup, currently averages 84.6 ppg avg scored, as well as the #1 offense in the nation. This matchup is shaping up to be a clash of the titans in Boston, MA.

How Good Is Iowa State?

The Cyclones are loaded with athleticism, and will give the Illini a run for their elite 8 money. Guard Keshon Gilbert is the Cyclones top offensive producer. Gilbert averages 13.7 ppg, shooting 44% from the field. Not eye popping stats, but remember, Iowa State is a defensive team. Tamin lipsey is another very athletic defensive guard for the Cyclones arsenal. He currently averages f 12.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game as a sophomore. As Coach Underwood will tell you, he can pick your pocket and make your offense pay.  Tre King is a heck of an athletic 4-man, who can be a nightmare on defense. The 6’7 Forward leads the team on the boards, with 5.3 rpg. Not bad efficiency on offense as well, as King holds an average of about 9 ppg.

“They are very good, and they are gonna play exceptionally hard.” says Brad Underwood. “I’m not oblivious to think we wont turn the ball over a few times. You have to be very decisive in your decisions, you have to be ball tough. You have two guys in their guards (Gilbert, Lipsey ) that do a great job of raking, and taking it out of your hands.” Brad says. “They are in constant rotation, and you can’t do the same thing every time. They’ll sit on it after a time or two.

Underwoods Keys to Winning

For Illinois Basketball’s head coach, ball security and decisiveness are key #1. “You have to try to avoid the pick sixes.” said Coach Underwood. Of course, referring to the turnovers that lead to extra scoring opportunities and possession time for the Cyclones. “Take the 5 second count if you are in trouble, punt it 24 rows up into the stands, just don’t jump up in the air and throw it…” laughs the Illini head coach. “They are good, we just have to be decisive in our decision making.

The big question on every ones mind, how does Underwood plan to out score Iowa State? Illinois certainly can score as we well know. In fact, the Illini are the top offense in the country according to Kenpom. However, they have certainly met a worthy match. As stated, the Cyclone’s currently hoist the #1 defensive unit in the nation. How will Illinois Basketball win? “You can’t replicate their athleticism. King, all those guys up front, they are so athletic, and quick.” said Brad. “You talk about doing certain things, and creating certain habits, and being ball tough, but we have too apply all of those things tomorrow.” Underwood claims.


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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.