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What Needs To Happen: Northwestern

The Illini have an opportunity to pick up their first conference win on Sunday

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois is coming off a string of disheartening defeats, but one of the more winnable games of the conference slate is coming up Sunday. How can the Illini take advantage and return to Champaign with a win over the Wildcats?

Limit the fouls

The Illini took themselves out of the game against Indiana with 25 personal fouls, and losing Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kipper Nichols to fouls in each of the past two games (vs. FAU, @ IU) is unacceptable. Illinois cannot continue to beat itself with undisciplined play and then expect to win conference games on a consistent basis. Even many of the guards like Trent Frazier have found themselves in foul trouble.

The Illini need to get as many minutes as possible from players like Frazier, Bezhanishvili and Ayo Dosunmu to maximize scoring opportunities.

Maximize the use of Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier

I’m going to keep harping on this until we see it happen. For whatever reason, Ayo and Trent are not able to be productive on the court at the same time. It is incumbent on Brad Underwood to figure out why this is and fix it.

Much like the consistent foul trouble, Illinois is handicapping itself the longer this strange dynamic between the two most talented guards on the team continues.

Whatever happened in the first half against Indiana, do it again

Illinois looked like a totally different team early in the first half against Indiana, as it pummeled the No. 21 team in the nation in Bloomington. The team looked connected and inspired in a way that we haven’t really seen this year.

Of course, as it has often been the case this season, the good times for Illinois didn’t last long. Eventually, Indiana punched back, and the talented duo of Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan became insurmountable. But for a few minutes there, Illinois played inspired basketball against one of the country’s best. Consistently playing at that level would give Illinois a win on Sunday against Northwestern.

All conference games this season will be uphill battles, particularly the games on the road. Welsh-Ryan arena is one of the conference’s least intimidating road environments, and it will be dampened considerably by the loyal group of orange-clad fans who will no doubt show up. Still, Northwestern has some talent and will want to represent against its in-state rival.

Brad Underwood’s squad has plenty to clean up before it can walk into any opponent’s arena and expect a victory.

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