Nov. 15—Sign up for our daily Illini basketball newsletter here
Player of the game
Was the whole ankle injury storyline a ruse? Because Kolek looked more than OK against Illinois, and the Golden Eagles' point guard certainly proved why he was an All-American last season and is in line to repeat as the same this year. Kolek got to the rim whenever he wanted against Illinois' defense and finished at the rim enough to put up a game-high 24 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.
The guards decided this one. Kolek was the best player on the court, and the Illini's Marcus Domask made a strong case for the second spot with 18 points and six rebounds. Both had a productive backcourt partner, too. Terrence Shannon Jr. chipped in a less efficient 21 points for Illinois (but had five turnovers), and Kam Jones knocked down a pair of three-pointers and finished with 15 points for the Golden Eagles.
The combination of Oso Ighodaro and Ben Gold did just enough to tip the scales in the Golden Eagles' favor in the frontcourt. Ighodaro flirted with a double-double and probably would have had double-digit rebounds if he got two hands on all the balls he tipped to a teammate. Quincy Guerrier did have 10 rebounds for the Illini, but zero points, and five Coleman Hawkins turnovers was a problem.
The Illini rotation — at least up front — was interesting Tuesday night with freshman Amani Hansberry getting more minutes than veteran big man Dain Dainja. Production off the bench, though, was mostly limited to what Luke Goode could provide. The junior guard knocked down four three-pointers and finished with 13 of Illinois' 14 bench points (a new career high).
Five days ago the Illini locked down defensively to turn a close game against Oakland into a double-digit victory. That kind of defensive intensity — or at least execution — was missing against Marquette. Particularly against Kolek, who proved the worth of a high-level point guard. Something Illinois could have used down the stretch when it missed its final six shots and made just one of its final 10.