Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
Illinois’ seven wins in eight games to end 2021 had one overarching theme. Super efficient offense. The Illini posted an adjusted offensive efficiency of at least 115 in all of those games — even the loss to Arizona.
The high point, of course, was the 106-48 win against St. Francis (Pa.). That blowout came with a season high AOE of 143.3, with the Illini scoring 1.742 points per possession with an effective field goal percentage of 81 percent. Needless to say, both were also season highs. An effective field goal percentage that high is just stupid, but that’s what happens when a team makes 18 of 34 three-pointers (and 20 of 24 shots inside the arc).
Illinois wasn’t quite that good in its follow up win against Missouri. But the offensive execution was still at a high level with an AOE of 123.4 on 1.237 points per possession and an effective field goal percentage of 67.2 percent.
Executing at that level against even stiffer competition is the goal. St. Francis is a 4-9 team and dropped its first two games in Northeastern Conference play. Missouri is, well, one of the worst power conference teams in the country.
“It’s pretty fun to be out there moving the ball like that where everybody’s scoring and everybody’s happy,” Illinois sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins said. “I think we need to put it toward other teams. When teams start crawling up in us and playing hard defense because everyone wants to beat us and we’re a huge target, I think that’s when it’s really fun. Just seeing teams shy away — they come out super aggressive and we come out running our offense — and seeing them fold is the best quality of having an efficient offense. When we’re able to do it against high competition teams, ranked teams, that’s when it’s even more fun and more special.”
Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is email@example.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).