CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood should probably send Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell a Christmas card this year. The Scarlet Knights upset No. 9 Maryland Tuesday night, denying the Terps a chance to win the Big Ten title and keeping the Illini in contention the last week of the season.
The Terrapins sit atop the league standings along with No. 16 Michigan State, both teams are 13-6. No. 23 Illinois and No. 24 Wisconsin are just one half game back at 12-6. It means if the Illini (20-9, 12-6) win their final two games of the year, at No. 19 Ohio State Thursday night and at home against No. 18 Iowa on Sunday, Illinois will win its first conference championship since 2005.
“This is amazing and that’s what I came here for,” Illinois senior guard Andres Feliz said. “I knew since Day 1 we was capable to win the league and that’s why I’m so excited we’re in this position now.”
“To be in this position 18 games in, it’s a blessing because so many teams wish they could be in this position because the league is so great,” Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said.
“To be relevant, to be in the conversation for a league title, that’s what we came here to do and doesn’t make it any easier but it’s right in front of us and we’re aware of that,” Underwood said.