Illinois is a lot better outside shooting team this season than in the past three seasons. In the recent past, teams could beat them by just throwing a simple 2-3 zone at them and watch them chuck. Now, Richardson, McCamey, Keller, Paul, Cole can all hit from long-range, while Davis and Tisdale have been money from mid-range (especially Tis).
They have now become a solid jump shooting team and will not go inside as much as the Illini Nation would like them too. McCamey, Paul and even Tisdale are beginning to change that a bit, especially during the 2nd half of their comeback at Bloomington on Saturday night when they were attacking the rim and going to the line quite a bit.
As for what PSU should throw at them to rattle them? Indiana just played a real aggressive man defense that forced Illinois to turn the ball over a lot in the first half. I think the Illini were just not into it as much as the Hoosiers that first 20:00 and didn’t match their intensity until well into the 2nd half. The Illini will be much more with it in Champaign on Tuesday.
You don’t want to get into too much of a running game with the Illini, because all five of their guys can run the floor and convert either at the rim or quickly swing the ball around to find the open man for an uncontested shot. They have become a very dangerous offensive team when they want to be. Play an aggressive man and try and get tough with them and hope the refs don’t call too many fouls. Sounds simple, but you just can’t…I repeat…you just can’t give any of the Illini open looks.
On offense, Georgia got real physical down low with the Illini and were very successful in doing so. So far in conference, the Illini have not had to face any tough inside presence (NW/Iowa/Indy). Not sure if that will change come Tuesday. But Ott, Jones, Brooks, DJ and maybe Edwards have to try and muscle their way in the paint to face the tall timbers of the Illini. They play tall, not so much big, and can be pushed around a little (though Tis has impressed me with his added toughness this season). The Illini do have a tendency to get a little lax in guarding the perimeter as well this season. Not quite the lockdown D that they played when Chet Frazier or even Dee/Deron/Luther was around, but if the Nits can move the ball, they will find openings as NW and Indy both did in their games. Babb seemed to find his shot in the Michigan game and I would love to see Woodyard make a cameo to aid the perimeter attack.
In their shorts man-to-man on D and develop an inside presence which will open the arc (and maybe get one of their bigs in foul trouble to boot) on O.
Bottom line…not expecting a win in this one…but the Illini really haven’t played one of the toughies yet in conference, so it’s tough to judge where they truly sit. NW took them to OT at home, Indy had them by 15 in the 2nd half. Only Iowa was run off the court by the Illini. So while it would surprise me, based on PSU’s recent play, it wouldn’t shock me to see PSU pull another win out of Assembly Hall.