This past Thursday night, Illinois fans suffered through every single emotion. There was excitement when up big in the first half, dismay as that same huge lead was chipped away in the second half, jubilation as the Illini tied it up late with a miracle three by Trent Frazier, and utter embarrassment and anger as the Illini choked away another win.
If you are keeping score at home, when taking into account should-be wins, the Illini are 15-3. In reality, they sit at a paltry 10-8, looking at a burst bubble early in the Big Ten season. Illinois has squandered away a number of games this season and have yet to get on the right side of zero when it comes to conference victories. What exactly do the Illini need to do Monday night in order to right the ship?
Do The Right Thing
For a few games now, I have been lamenting the high amount of threes taken by this team. At times, they just weren’t falling and were costing the team during games. Against Iowa, however, they made 14 threes on 30 shot attempts. The major reason the Illini were up early so big was thanks in part to how well they were shooting all night long. If the shot is falling, take your shot. However, the team has to be disciplined to know that if they need to look to the interior for more high percentage shots when the three isn’t falling.
Spicy G (Greg Eboigbodin) has been tremendous off the bench for Illinois. While young and raw, his has flashed moments of brilliance for Brad Underwood. Same for Leron Black. He’s got game. The Illini need to get the ball inside and let the big men go to work on the Huskers. In regard to getting the ball inside, Illinois needs to find a way to get to the free throw line more often. Against Iowa, Illinois was 11-14 from the charity stripe. Compare that to 33-40 for Iowa. Illinois needs to find ways to pressure inside, force fouls, and get the easy points.
What is it about Illinois that causes them to struggle late in the game? In three overtime games this season, the Illini have been outscored by a total of of 12 points for an average of four points per loss. One of the signs of a good team is how they play when their back is against the wall. The Illini need to do a better job late in the game, whether it is in regulation or overtime, if they want to compete week in and week out in the Big Ten.
I have been bamboozled multiple times this season. I have consistently picked the Illini to win games and I have been proven wrong. No more. Illinois wins in an upset and oldboy Alstork has a breakout game, 64-60.