At this point in the season, there's no denying that Illinois has a superstar duo in Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. The two can give the Illini 20+ points each on any given night. Nunn leads the Big Ten in scoring at 18.8 points per game; Hill comes in at third with 18.1. Yeah, these two are good. While it's great having two studs on the floor, the Illini can fall into some trouble when they don't show up. It's live or die with Nunn and Hill, but as of last Sunday, the Illini are alive.
Illinois found a way to take down Purdue on its own floor Sunday night. The Illini shot 54.2% from the field and put up a total of 84 points against the most efficient defense in the country. They hit 9 of 17 (52.9%) three point attempts and were effective at the charity stripe in making 23 of 28 (82.1%). This was by far the biggest win of the season for the Illini, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Illinois had lost its first three conference games and looked as if it was going to lose another when the Boilermakers came to town, but inspired play by Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill was the driving force behind an upset victory for the Illini.
Malcolm Hill led the charge for the Fighting Illini with 30 points on 9 of 15 shooting. He knocked down both of his three point attempts, hit 10 of 14 tries from the charity stripe, and even tallied 8 rebounds as well. He was nothing short of spectacular in one of the biggest games of the season for Illinois. Coupled with Hill's incredible performance was that of Nunn. Kendrick went for 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting including 3 of 5 from three and 3 of 3 from the free throw line. Nunn also had the play of the game: a monster jam off a feed from Jalen Coleman-Lands that helped solidify a dwindling Illini lead.
WARNING: Chills may ensue after this MONSTER slam. Illinois leads 57-48 at the Under 12 TO pic.twitter.com/QCZmIy3U49
— The Groce Report (@TheGroceReport) January 11, 2016
Kendrick Nunn has been Batman as of late. For plays like the one you see above, he's explosive, he flies through the air, and he has some of the best dunks in the entire game. He's also the "main guy" right now due to the fact that he leads the Big Ten in scoring. Kendrick Nunn is the superhero who comes to save the day. In addition to prolific scoring, Kendrick Nunn has also mastered the art of chase-down blocks. He's had some nasty rejections lately. Just like Batman keeps Gotham City safe from enemies, Kendrick Nunn keeps the rim safe from lay-ups.
Malcolm Hill has been Robin lately. He isn't always the star of the show with highlight reel dunks or game-winning three-pointers, but he's always there and he's always performing at a high-level. Just like Robin is a loyal sidekick to Batman, Malcolm Hill is the perfect guy to go right alongside Nunn. He's not necessarily known for flashy plays, but when the ball needs to go in the bucket, he's got it in his hands. Malcolm continues to impress with great performances this season and is undeniably one of the most important pieces to Illinois' offense.
Regardless of the superhero comparisons, Illinois' Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill have been darn good. They're both All-Big Ten caliber players; there's no denying that. The only question is whether or not the two can keep up the good work. If Nunn and Hill aren't combining for at least 40 points on any given night, Illinois probably isn't going to win. Because of countless injuries, Illinois does not have a lot of go-to players outside of its two stud juniors. For this reason, Nunn and Hill have to be great every single night if Illinois wants to find success moving forward.