Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak on Monday thanks in large part to a 1-2-2 three-quarter court press after made shots.
It didn't cause a lot of turnovers, but it did make Northwestern start its offense with 15 seconds or so left on the 30-second shot clock in the Illini's 81-76 win.
"We did something a little different just to be disruptive," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. "They are a team that is set-oriented. We wanted to really try and knock them out of that and make them play with a short clock and not let them just come down and get into their things so easily. I think it got them on their heals a little bit."
Trent Frazier got a steal and DaMonte Williams scored for a 22-11 lead with 11:13 in the first half. That was one of the six points the Illini scored off of only eight Northwestern turnovers. The eight turnovers were the fewest forced by the Illini in 31 games dating back to Feb. 20, 2018, when Michigan State beat Illinois 81-61 at East Lansing.
The second turnover caused by the trap was when Alan Griffin stole the ball and dunked it for what was the largest lead for the Illini, 35-20, with 3:11 left in the opening half.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said he was happy the Wildcats only had eight turnovers.
"I am really proud of how we took care of the ball against a team that feasts on turning you over (averaged 13.2 entering the game)," said Collins. "When you turn the ball over in single digits against these guys you are going to feel good about that because they are really good with their pressure defense. They forced a couple of turnovers, but I am used to watching them turn it over 20 plus times."
While the 1-2-2 was effective — and you might even see it Thursday against Indiana — it is not up to Jay Wright's standards at Villanova. But the Illini have the quickness to get traps out of it for sure.
While Lincoln's Neil Alexander and Nokomis' Steve Kimbro are known for running the 1-2-2 in high school, it doesn't seem to be run much at the college level.
"We have long arms," said Ayo Dosumu. "Their offense has to work and then they have like 16 on the shot clock. It just disrupts their offense."
Obviously, another thing that helped the Illini in their win was going 33-of-38 (.868) from the free-throw line. Illinois entered the game shooting 69 percent as a team. It was the Illini's most free throws since Nov. 10, 2017, when the Illini made 34-of-37 free throws in a 102-55 win over Southern University.
Andres Feliz nearly tied the all-time record for the most free throws made in one game by an individual. Kiwane Garris was 17-of-17 on Dec. 3, 1996. Feliz entered the game as a 72 percent free throw shooter.
Rebounds were another big thing for the undersized Illini — they out-rebounded the Wildcats 29-29, including 34-21 on the defensive end. It was the first time Illinois had out-rebounded an opponent since beating Minnesota 95-68 on Jan. 16.
"It was huge," said Underwood. "People don't give Aaron Jordan enough credit for the job he does. Here is a guy that gets 10 rebounds, all defensive. A guy that is undersized playing a four. Giorgi (Bezhanishvili) has been great on the glass the last couple of games with 17. It is a concentrated effort. What I am trying to get the guards to do is rebound like Dre (Andres Feliz). He is getting 5, 6, 7 a night. We have to get the other guys doing that. There is nothing better than a guard rebounding so we can start the fast break."