Twenty-one days ago. That was the Illini’s first Big Ten win of the season. It came at the hands of an Indiana team that is still finding its identity under new head coach Archie Miller.
Now, Illinois is seeking only its third Big Ten win of the 2017-18 season. Things were not supposed to be this way, but alas Underwood has found problems within the team and has been working to remove a ‘losing culture’ from the University of Illinois basketball program.
Nobody wants to face the truth in 2018. It seems that maybe this team, as currently constructed, is simply not very good. That is where recruiting will come in to play with Underwood and staff having their first full season in Champaign trying to right the ship. As fans begin to look to the future while still holding out hope for a few more wins in 2018, what do the Illini need to do in order to come out on top in Bloomington?
Come out shooting
I was not able to watch the game against Penn State this past weekend, but I was able to listen to it. One statement that Brian Barnhart made stood out to me.
When the Illini were up early 9-8, Penn State was shooting 80 percent (4-5) while the Illini were shooting 50 percent (3-6). I have said multiple times this season that the speed and toughness that Underwood has been trying to instill in this team can help win games. More shot opportunities can mean more points.
It is not rocket science, but this team will need to have more shot attempts to keep up with Indiana. Even if you make 10 percent fewer baskets than your opponent, five additional shot attempts can get you a win.
Stop The Droughts
Probably the most frustrating thing for fans, and the staff and players alike, is the fact that every single game seems to feature some sort of scoring drought.
The most recent game, Penn State, featured a maddening 8 minute and 34 second stretch where the Illini were held scoreless. Add to that the fact that the Illini only scored 16 points in the final 13 minutes of the second half, and it is not shock they came out on the losing end.
Illinois athletics has, in recent memory, had a fond way of shooting itself in the foot far too often. The Illini will need to stop the bleeding, stop the droughts, and score some points if they hope to end their losing streak.
As of last night the Illini were officially dead last in the Big Ten. Not an ideal place for any team, but especially not ideal for a new coach who needs to recruit to rebuild this roster. Sadly, however, it may not stop tonight.
Indiana is favored by 8.5 points, and I believe the Hoosiers will cover that spread in a 79-64 victory.