Obviously, the one factor that stands out among the rest and is also dominating the postgame discussion – free throws.
The free throw rate of 84.8 percent for Illinois was the defining number when you dig into the four factors. In fact, a quick glance at the Pomeroy Game Plan for the Fighting Illini shows it was easily their best performance in that area this season. (The runner-up? 48.4 percent back on November 17 against Northern Illinois.)
Free throw rate, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, measures the frequency at which a team makes it way to the line. It’s calculated by dividing a team’s free throw attempts by its number of field goal attempts.
The theory behind the importance of this number, according to Dean Oliver, is that by simply getting to the line, a team dramatically increases it chances of winning. Free throw rate does not take into account making free throws. But over the long haul, Oliver notes, “just getting to the line frequently wins a lot more games than missing a few freebies will lose.”
And last night, this theory rang true. It wasn’t that Illinois was flawless from the line – they shot 69.2 percent – but by the Illini’s sheer volume of attempts, Indiana was out-scored by 17 at the line.
Filed to: Illinois Fighting Illini