Illinois beat Hawaii last night, 68-58 in Champaign in a 60 possession game. The contest wasn't quite as close as the final score, as this was a 19 point game with about five minutes left. Still, this game was remarkable in that the Illini were outrebounded 43-14 (the 14 rebounds were a record low for the Illini in Assembly Hall), but won easily. The reason? Turnovers. The Rainbow Warriors turned it over 22 times, while Illinois gave it up just five times. Twenty-two turnovers sounds like a lot, but in a slow game like this one, it means more. Hawaii turned the ball over on 37% of their possessions. It's hard to win a game doing that. Chester Frazier and Dominique Keller each had 14 points on 7 shots for the Illini. Box score.
Illinois is off to a good start this season, but they need to shore up their defensive rebounding. With the loss of Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle, this was seen as a problem area prior to the start of the season, and there haven't been any surprises. Currently, the Illini rank 240th in all of Division 1 in defensive rebounding. Now, this isn't a monumental problem because the Big 10 as a whole is not a great offensive rebounding conference. But it's hard to see the Illini continue to play elite defense with those kind of rebounding numbers. Indeed, the defense so far has been aided by opponents shooting 60.5% at the free throw line.
Soon, the Illini will add Alex Legion to the squad, so the offense, which is already humming along, should get even better. But Bruce Weber will need to consider some lineup changes. Here are the defensive rebounding numbers for the Illini frontcourt players:
Currently, Davis and Keller are splitting time at the 4 spot, while Tisdale and Semrau are manning the center position. Frankly, that's just a terrible output from Tisdale and Semrau. Add to the fact that Keller's offense off the bench has been tremendous (even if he is a black hole), it seems like an easy decision. But I wouldn't expect any dramatic changes - after all, Davis and Keller will still need a breather, and when they do, it will be Tisdale and Semrau on the floor. Changing the lineup will have some incremental changes, but it won't solve the Illini's rebounding woes. That is likely here to stay.
Tonight, Purdue visits Ball State, Iowa hosts Northern Iowa to tip off the annual state battle, and Idaho State visits the Kohl Center to take on Wisconsin.