#16 Illini Defense Suffocates Patriot League Favorite Colgate

Illinois doesn’t allow any of Colgate’s All-Patriot League players to score in double figures in a 17-point victory over a projected NCAA Tournament squad.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

December 17, 2023

Ty Rodgers courtesy of Illinois Athletics

CHAMPAIGN — An early home tip during finals week against a low-major conference preseason favorite was the perfect opportunity for Illinois to showcase a grind-it-out victory.

The No. 16 Illini (8-2) rarely let its offensive sleepiness affect its defensive efficiency in a 74-57 victory over Colgate on Sunday afternoon. Brad Underwood’s squad held the three-time defending Patriot League champion to just 3 of 15 from three-point range and just 19 total points outside of the paint in Illinois’ third contest in a stretch of five consecutive non-conference games against programs that qualified for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

“We knew they would be good, a good point guard, a lot of size and these are the times of games where you’re preparing for March,” Illinois senior forward Coleman Hawkins said. “Not to say we were looking ahead but these are possibly the kinds of games with an early noon tip against a solid team in the NCAA Tournament.”

Hawkins finished the day with 16 points in 29 minutes of action that included two three pointers as Colgate (6-5) switched to a matchup zone defense. The senior forward also added seven rebounds. Terrence Shannon Jr. had 14 points, but the senior guard had five blocks and defensively held Colgate guard Braeden Smith to two points on 1 of 7 shooting.

“How good was Terrence Shannon today and I don’t mean his offense. Yeah, he had five blocks, but Braeden Smith is a guard who could play anywhere in the country, and I don’t think he scored a point on Terrence,” Underwood said. “We don’t need Terrence to score 30 points every night. Whatever he got today sure didn’t affect his defense and everything else he provided for us.”

At one point in the second half, Illinois was 1 for its first 11 field goal attempts but the home team still had an 18-point lead and had outscored Colgate 7-6 coming out of the locker room.

Quincy Guerrier, who is continuing to get back 100 percent healthy from an early-season hand injury, had 15 points on just six field goal attempts with seven rebounds (three on the offensive end) and was a plus-18 in his 27 minutes of action.

“We got multiple guys that can put up double figures and that’s not a problem,” Guerrier said. “I think our defense is the key to our success. It’s about focus for us and not letting a run affect us at all.”

Defensively, Illinois came into this contest being ranked sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.366) and ranked 50th in the NCAA in scoring defense (65.0 ppg) and 35th in scoring margin (plus-15.0). Illinois also ranks among the top three nationally in two defensive categories via KenPom, leading the nation in two-point defense (.394), and ranking third in effective field goal percentage defense (.410).

Colgate fifth year forward Keegan Records, who was named Patriot League Men’s Basketball Preseason Player and Defensive Player of the Year, was held to just nine points and seven rebounds and All-Patriot League Men’s Basketball preseason team selection Ryan Moffatt was limited to just seven points.

“Just look at how many games Colgate has won over the last four years. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a lot more than we have,” Underwood said. “I’ll tell you again how nervous I was about this game because I so very much was. It’s a tribute to our guys and I think it’s about us being old. This week is a coach’s nightmare.”

Illinois will close out their non-conference slate with a pair of marquee matchups, starting with the McBride Homes Braggin’ Rights game vs. Missouri (Dec. 22 in St. Louis), followed by a sold-out home game vs. Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 29.

 

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