Illini Drive @ 5 talks Illinois basketball with Gus Johnson

_Editor’s note: The following is the partial transcript from Monday’s Illini Drive @ 5 on WPGU, where play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson gave his take on Illinois men’s basketball._

*[email protected]:* Is this team done?

*Gus Johnson:* Oh no, I think that’s really premature. I think that there’s a lot of basketball left this season. I think that the game that I’m calling on Wednesday, Purdue and Illinois in Champaign, Fighting Illini — it’s a playoff game. It’s their Super Bowl, it’s their national championship, and if they go out and play with that kind of intensity and that kind of attitude and they beat Purdue, then they’re feeling good about themselves. And then they can try to start gaining some momentum.

*[email protected]:* You were there in Bloomington. What were your thoughts on Illinois and the way they played?

*Johnson:* I think Illinois needs a guard. Meyers Leonard was incredible in the first half, and he couldn’t get enough touches. He didn’t get the amount of shots that he should’ve got. He had, what, 15 points in the first half? He came off a 21-point game — I think you have to get that guy the ball. I think the Fighting Illini settle for too many 3-point shots. I thought Brandon Paul was not aggressive. He didn’t attack the basket and try to get to the foul line, because he’s an excellent shooter and an excellent free throw shooter. I thought Illinois knew what they were supposed to do — they were coached to fight hard, but I thought that when the guys got on the floor in hostile territory they chocked in a sense and didn’t play the game they were supposed to play.

*[email protected]:* This is exactly what we’ve been saying, to give the people the ball, that needs to be fed.

*Johnson:* And Meyers Leonard is seven feet tall, he’s an incredible athlete, your guards have to stop shooting so many threes. (D.J.) Richardson did a good job at Indiana, but when you see that big guy down there and he’s getting great position and he’s feeling good, get him the ball. It’s a higher-percentage shot.

*[email protected]:* Do you think that Leonard would be doing himself a disservice if he came back to school next year and didn’t take his chances in the lottery?

*Johnson:* You know, that’s a tough question, because if his people can find out that he’s a lottery pick, you can’t turn down that money, just can’t. It’s a life changer, a family changer, so if he’s a top-five pick he’s got to go.