Illinois wound up just one game shy of sharing last season’s Big Ten title despite finishing as the league’s worst 3-point shooting team.
Clearly, in order to compete for this year’s Big Ten crown, the No. 8 Fighting Illini needed to add at least one legitimate outside threat to complement preseason All-America guard Ayo Dosunmu and all-Big Ten 7-footer Kofi Cockburn. Just as clearly, freshman guard Adam Miller appears to be the man for the job.
Miller, the only newcomer in Illinois’ starting lineup Wednesday, buried the team’s first two baskets of the season — both of them nothing-but-net 3-pointers from the corner. He made 6 of 8 3-point attempts to highlight his 28-point outburst in Illinois’ 122-60 victory over North Carolina A&T.
The smooth lefty from Chicago’s Morgan Park High School not only pocketed the Illini record for most points by a freshman in his college debut, he helped Illinois set a single-game record with 17 3-pointers.
Now it’s a matter of proving he can do it day after day, as Illinois (1-0) gets just 20 hours from the end of its season-opening victory to the start of its second game, a matchup against Chicago State (0-1). Tipoff on the Illini’s home court in Champaign is set for noon EST on the Big Ten Network.
“We worked really hard to rectify” the 3-point shooting, Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “You add Adam — and that’s his reputation. He got great looks, and he’s going to knock them down.”
Miller, rated the nation’s No. 29 recruit per the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), wasn’t the only newcomer to display a deft outside touch. Junior Jacob Grandison, who sat out last season after transferring from Holy Cross, canned both of his 3-point tries on his way to 10 points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.
“He was a primary scorer at Holy Cross,” Underwood said. “He’s come in here and he has added weight and strength. He’s an electric cutter and his motor never stops. I was really pleased with him. For a guy in his first game, I thought he was terrific.”
Dosunmu, meanwhile, unveiled a new outside shot that featured much more arc than last year — when he canned just 29.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. Not coincidentally, Dosunmu made a career-high five 3-pointers Wednesday on just eight attempts.
While Illinois appeared to be in midseason form — shooting 58.7 percent from the field and outrebounding North Carolina A&T 62-18 — Chicago State could not say the same.
The Cougars lost 84-61 to Mid-American Conference contender Ohio in Wednesday’s other Illinois MTE contest. They also lost the game-day services of third-year coach Lance Irvin — as it was revealed before Wednesday’s game that he asked Chicago State to be excused from game-day coaching due to COVID-19 concerns. Irvin is a two-time cancer survivor.
While Irvin plans to continue fulfilling all other aspects of the head coaching role, associate head coach Rodell Davis took charge for the opener.
His Cougars enjoyed a few brief leads in the opening six minutes against Ohio, but wound up trailing by as much as 30 as they shot just 35.1 percent from the field while allowing the Bobcats to hit 58.3 percent of their attempts.
One bright spot for Chicago State? Seven-foot freshman Lou Demuth, a 20-year-old from Luxembourg, came off the bench to provide a team-high 12 points with six rebounds. Demuth started playing for the Baloncesto Sevilla club in Spain one year after Kristaps Porzingis jumped from Sevilla to the NBA.
–Field Level Media