This weekend is the annual Braggin’ Rights game, pitting Illinois against Missouri in one of the biggest games of the season for each program. The Illini have won the past four straight and nine of the past 13 matchups.
In order to be victorious, the Illini will need to do a few things right.
Come out hot
In five of its last seven games, Illinois has gone into halftime with an average deficit of just under nine points. Early struggles have doomed this team in too many matchups.
The Illini are 4-3 when trailing at the half in 2017, so it has not been a dealbreaker for the Illini to play from behind at the break, but it is always easier to play while ahead.
On the flip side, their second-half effort has been stellar all season long, so kudos to Coach Brad Underwood and his staff for finding a way to light the fire after bad start.
Illinois needs to, at the very least, find a way to take a lead into the locker room if they hope to be competitive Saturday.
Get the ball to Leron Black
In his return to action, Leron Black tallied 17 points and 8 rebounds against New Mexico State. He is averaging 17 points and 6 rebounds in his last three game that featured him as a full participant, not including the UNLV game when Black left early due to an elbow injury.
The Illini have to find ways to keep Black involved down low. The ball movement displayed by Illinois has been solid all year and finding Black in the paint will maximize the Illini’s offensive success.
Stop beating yourself
Illinois has found infuriating, nauseating, mind numbing ways to lose games this year. Bad plays, poor inbounding, bad calls, you name it.
The Illini need to find a way to stop killing themselves. Missouri is a good program and will absolutely capitalize on any mistake this young team makes. If the Illini expect to win, it starts with not beating themselves.