The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Bounceback opportunity against Valparaiso awaits No. 23 Illinois men’s basketball

Tuesday night was a tight one for No. 23 Illinois men’s basketball, who held several leads in the second half against No. 4 Marquette but ultimately fell 71-64. The Illini’s official way to put that in the past comes in the form of the Valparaiso Beacons. Led by former Illini Roger Powell Jr., Valparaiso will search for its first win against Illinois on Friday night at the State Farm Center.

Powell is likely a reminder of better times for Illini fans, as he averaged 12 points per game on the 2004-05 squad that made it all the way to the national title game. He is in his first year as head coach of the Beacons and will be spearheading their attempt to get payback for an 82-57 Illini victory in the first round of the 2017 NIT. 

As the clear favorite in the all-time series (7-0), it is up to Illinois to continue that dominance. Defense has been no issue so far for the Illini, so while they aim to clean up some of the turnovers and rebounding issues from Tuesday, that should remain a constant to fall back on. From Oakland’s Greg Kampe to Marquette’s Shaka Smart, head coaches around the NCAA are taking notice of Illinois’ defensive backcourt. 

“Wow, they can guard,” Kampe said. “My god, they can guard. I’ve done this a long time and I don’t, man, Shannon and Ty Rodgers (…) those two guys got into us and they did it all game. Usually, when teams do that to you, you can run a lot of screens and re-screens and they’ll make a mistake. They never made a mistake.”

“Terrence Shannon and Ty Rodgers (…) their physicality is something else,” Smart said. “I would guess we’ll probably have a lot of bumps and bruises after that game.”

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    On the other side of the court, it capitalized on offensive rebounds that Illinois head coach Brad Underwood pointed to as a major area of concern. Despite beating Marquette in total offensive rebounds 12-10, Illinois only walked away with five second-chance points. 

    That number is made even worse by examining the stages of the game where the Illini were failing to convert. Of the two times that Illinois converted on its offensive rebounds, neither were outside of the opening minutes of a half while the missed stacked up in crunch time. In Underwood’s eyes, there is no single player to blame, and the entire team needs to step up for that offensive rebounding.

    “All of them,” Underwood said. “All of them, it’s ridiculous. It’s my biggest point of frustration with this team. I’m literally going to play anyone who (has) offensive rebounds and I’ve said that from day one. It’s a great opportunity to score points in the paint and we’re just not very consistent with it.”

    All members of Illinois menʼs basketball will get a chance to prove their worth in that aspect this Friday at 7 p.m., with Valparaiso standing opposed at the State Farm Center. The game will be streamed on B1G+ and available on radio stations that are part of the Busey Bank Illini Sports Network.



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    About the Contributor
    Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor
    My name is Conor Blount. I’m a junior in aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. I joined The Daily Illini in the summer of 2022 as a beat writer for the sports section and am now one of three assistant sports editors. My first beat was women’s tennis before I moved to women’s basketball in the spring. I also had the pleasure of covering several former Illini at the 2023 NFL draft and NBA summer league. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the email below.