Basketball team proves strength in defense

Basketball team proves strength in defense

By Lucas Deal

The Illinois basketball team’s season-opening exhibition win Wednesday night against Lewis University was a great display of how teams should play disciplined, on-the-ball defense.

The Illini blanketed the Flyers’ ball handlers all night, forcing them into 22 turnovers while recording 10 steals in the team’s 83-58 win.

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“Our pressure defense was very good tonight,” said Illini head coach Bruce Weber. “We’ve been working on playing good defense, and you could tell tonight.”

While the total result of the game seemed to please Weber, the Illini head coach was the most impressed by his team’s defensive play midway through the first half.

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    Down 7-5 following a Lewis tip-in at the 17:39 mark, the Illini defense stiffened to allow the Flyers only five points, all on free throws, for the next 12 and a half minutes. By the time the Flyers finally did make a basket with 4:54 left in the half, the score and the game were already out of reach at 30-15.

    “We had a string where we didn’t give up a basket for nearly 13 minutes,” Weber said. “We were able to get them out of their rhythm, and then they got worn out and couldn’t make any shots.”

    For the entire first half, Lewis made only 5 of 25 shots attempted and scored 20 points. When they entered halftime, they were down by 24 points.

    Now that’s a pretty solid defensive half.

    “We haven’t worked a lot on offense yet, so we have to get out there and guard,” said Illini senior forward Warren Carter, who led the Illini in scoring with 13 points. “We have to guard (well) to win.”

    Jumping out to such a large lead and using your defense to get you that lead can be a huge confidence builder for a young team. When a team is struggling to find an identity and find their niche, a defensive performance like the Illini had in the first 20 minutes can really help push them in the right direction.

    I think Weber will and should use this to build the team’s confidence as the early season moves forward. Because until the Illini offense regains its full strength and finds its top scorers, this is going to be a defensive team.

    And it all starts with Illinois’ high-energy point guard Chester Frazier. Frazier only had three steals, but his constant pressure never allowed the Flyers to get comfortable. If he can continue to disrupt teams from the top of the key, the rest of the Illini should follow in his footsteps and could make the Illini a very talented defensive team.

    “Last year, when he came into the game to replace Dee (Brown), I thought there was a significant drop off,” Lewis head coach Scott Trost said. “This year, you can tell, he’s a lot better. He’s really worked on his game and he’s making good decisions. His defense will make them a better team.”

    Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]