Following a loss to the Golden Gophers, the Illini find themselves down to 0-3 in Big Ten Conference play. After a bad first half, the Illini were able to claw their way back into the contest, but Minnesota was able to hold the onslaught at bay and come away victorious. Now as Illinois prepares for their fourth Big Ten game, what do they need to do in order to find that ever elusive win for Coach Brad Underwood?
Don’t Give Michigan A 20 Point Head Start
This is not me trying to be funny. In their last two Big Ten games, the Illini have faced first half deficits of 21 and 19 points. That is not the halftime deficit, that is simply some point in the first half. So at some point in the first half, the Illini have trailed by an average of 20 points in their past two matchups. Neither of those two games were lost by that large of a margin. Illinois has got to do a better job out of the gate if they want to come away victorious. Someone told me this week that they believe second half Illinois can compete with anyone in the country, but in order to unlock second half Illinois you have to use first half Illinois. He could not have been more right.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
Illinois has been solid all year in forcing turnovers this season and against Michigan they will need to do the same. The Wolverines are coached well in regards to ball handling and not making mistakes. Illinois will need to force Michigan into mistakes in order to get some extra possessions for this tough road game. If the Illini can keep their mistakes limited while forcing Michigan into mistakes, that could be the help they need to walk away victorious.
Limit The 3
Over the past two games, Illinois is a dreadful 12-47 (25.5%) from behind the arc. Not. Gonna. Cut. It. If you make one third of those misses for two, you add 24 points to their last two games combined. Get the ball inside for a more manageable, higher percentage shot.
Don’t Let Michigan Wear Practice Uniforms
We all know how that goes.
I may get blasted, that is fine. There is no way in my mind that Underwood lets this team go 0-4 in Big Ten play. I expect the Illini to go down early, again, and this time claw back for a win, 71-70.