Sturdy's 3 Takeaways - St. Francis (PA)

Brad Sturdy, IlliniGuy

December 18, 2021

Illinois dominated St. Francis 106-48 at the State Farm Center on Saturday, setting an Illinois record with 18 3 pointers to move to 8-3 on the season heading into the Braggin’ Rights Classic on Wednesday in St. Louis. Kofi Cockburn had 21 and 11, while Alfonso Plummer added 19 and Jacob Grandison 18 to lead the way, as Illinois has now won 6 of 7.

Here’s a look at what we saw:

  1. 3 Balls Rain - The Illini hit a program record 18 3 pointers with 8 different players hitting from deep led by 5 from Alfonso Plummer and 4 from Jacob Grandison. The Illini are 88-200 over the past 7 games, 44%, from deep as they continue to assault 3-point shooting records around the big man in the middle. This is the best stretch of Illinois shooting since the first 6 games of the John Groce era when they won the Maui Invitational. But this shooting has staying power, and they have a backup plan in Cockburn when they need it. They are up to 11th nationally on KenPom.
  2. Defensive Effort - Although the Illini made it rain, they also guarded a solid offensive team very well. After two of the non-shooters for St. Francis made 3’s early, the Illini locked them down, holding them to 26% shooting from the floor. Defense and scouting have been a point of emphasis for Illinois during the past week of practices, and it paid off in this one. Illinois forced drivers into tough shots and allowed poor shooters to shoot from deep. The one issue was defensive rebounding, but they still grabbed 65% of the SFU misses and 56% of their own misses. Illinois is now 35th defensively on KenPom.
  3. Showing Growth - The week of practice was good for everyone, but especially for the youngsters. Brandin Podziemski had a great week of practice and finally got some shots to fall in the game. Luke Goode continued to show his toughness and made shots. RJ Melendez showed off his entire arsenal, with daggers, dimes, and drives to 5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists

Alphonso Plummer courtesy Illinois Athletics

Notable:

  • Illinois scored 1.767 PPP. That’s ridiculous. The highest prior to this in the KenPom era was 1.504 against Hampton in 2020 and 1.502 against Delaware State in 20005. That might be the best offensive performance in Illinois basketball history.
  • Illinois held SFU to 0.800 PPP, their worst number of the season. This is a decent offensive team, so this number might be even more impressive.
  • For the first time this season, Coleman Hawkins didn’t start. He played a season low 9 minutes due to his foul trouble and lackadaisical play on offense at times. However, Illinois needs Hawkins to play, and play well, to reach their goals. This was more of a motivational tactic.
  • Benjamin Bosmans Verdonk was a good matchup for the 6’6 wide bodied 4 man from the Red Flash and earned 13 minutes. BBV defended well, passed well and brought great energy.
  • Omar Payne had a great week of practice, and then continued to struggle in games. Will he figure it out? We’ll see, but he will be needed if Kofi gets into foul trouble.
  • Trent Frazier with 9 points and 5 assists, and more importantly another win. He’s extremely unselfish and just plays to win. He also holds his opponent, their leading scorer, to 10 points on 3-11 shooting with 2 turnovers.
  • Illinois made 18 three-pointers, setting a school record and breaking the previous UI mark of 17 treys set in last season’s opener vs. North Carolina A&T (Nov. 25, 2020).
  • It marked Illinois’ fifth straight game making at least 11 three-pointers, and sixth time in the last seven games.
  • Illinois is now shooting 44% from 3-point range (88-200) over the last seven games while making an average of 12.6 threes.
  • Illinois shot 65.5% overall (38-58), its highest field goal percentage in a game since Jan. 6, 2011, when the Illini set the current school record with 70.5% accuracy vs. Northwestern.
  • Illinois held Saint Francis (Pa.) to just 26.2% shooting, the lowest field goal percentage by a UI opponent since Jan. 5, 2020, when Purdue made 25%.
  • Kofi Cockburn tallied his fourth straight double-double and sixth in eight games this season, recording game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Cockburn now has 34 career double-doubles, most in the nation among active players since 2019-20, and ranking fifth on the Illini all-time list.
  • Cockburn is now at 21.4 ppg and 11.9 rpg, one of only two players in the NCAA this season averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Jacob Grandison tallied his 1,000th career point on a 3-pointer to start the second half. Grandison totaled 737 points in two years at Holy Cross and has now scored 271 points in two seasons with the Illini, giving him 1,008 for his career.
  • Grandison is the third 1,000-point scorer on the current UI roster, joining Trent Frazier (1,536) and Kofi Cockburn (1,132).
  • Grandison finished with 18 points, his fourth straight game scoring at least 14. He is now averaging 17.3 ppg over the last four games.
  • Alfonso Plummer scored 19 points, all coming in the first half. That ended his streak of consecutive 20-point games at six, tied for the fourth-longest streak by an Illini in the last 50 years.
  • Plummer remained perfect at the foul line, hitting two more today to improve to 33-of-33 on the season. His current run of 33 straight made free throws is now the second-longest streak in Illini history.

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