PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Most of the time, if you shoot 54 percent from the field, score 88 points, and have five players score in double figures, you’ll win the game.
But that wasn’t the case for #13 Illinois on Sunday, as they fell 91-88 at #19 Rutgers in Big Ten conference play.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood said after the game that there were two key areas on the defensive end of the floor that hurt his team.
“We spent most of the year last year in the top ten in foul rate. Now it’s becoming a problem,” Underwood said. “You’re not going to win on the road with a 21 free-throw discrepancy, and we just got annihilated on the glass.”
The Scarlet Knights attempted 36 free throws, making 25 of them. The Illini shot just 11-15 from the free throw line.
Total rebounding was much closer, with Rutgers edging Illinois 35-34, but the Scarlet Knights grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, compared to ten for the Illini.
Da’Monte Williams, Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo all fouled out of the game. Williams had connected on all four of his three-pointers, and Curbelo drove the offense during his time on the court, which Underwood lamented for its brevity.
“Andre Curbelo was dominant in the game when he was on the court, and I can’t keep him on the court,” Underwood said. “He’s got to learn to figure out how to play.”
Curbelo’s roommate Adam Miller, a fellow freshman, also had a difficult time Sunday. Underwood said he wasn’t too concerned about Miller’s growing pains.
“Adam’s a freshman. He’s having to learn,” Underwood said. “This game is really, really hard. It is a huge jump from high school.”
Ron Harper Jr, and Jacob Young led Rutgers with 28 and 24 points, respectively. Underwood said the player of the game was Rutgers’ center Myles Johnson, who grabbed a game-high thirteen rebounds and wreaked havoc defensively in the paint with three blocked shots and three steals.
Ayo Dosunmu again led Illinois with 22 points, and added eleven rebounds and six assists. Frazier scored 19 points with five assists, and Kofi Cockburn added 17 points plus a dozen rebounds.
Rutgers improved to 6-0 on the year and 2-0 in the Big Ten. The Illini are now 1-1 in conference play, and 5-3 overall. They’ll return to action Wednesday night at Penn State. That game tips at 5:30 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network.
Rob McColley covers University of Illinois athletics for WILL.