CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After a wishy, washy start to the season going 2-2, it might be safe to say Illinois basketball has gotten back to the form everyone expected them to be in.
A Braggin’ Rights win on last Wednesday has now given the Illini seven wins out of their last eight games, two of those in conference play. They are averaging almost 87 points per game in their last eight, while giving up just 68.5. With one game left before the turn of the calendar, Illinois finds itself in great shape before they get into Big Ten play. Practice and health are big reason why they have found this recent run of form.
“We’re getting better,” says senior Trent Frazier. “It’s a fight in practice every day. Christmas Break, we’ve gotten a lot better individually and as a team. We’ve been working hard, it’s a blood bath in practice every day. Making us better, that’s what it’s about.”
“We were literally struggling game to game. We didn’t have bodies,” says head coach Brad Underwood. “It was more of get by every game than build for the long term. Now a feel like we’re starting to do that. We’ve played really good people, we’ve seen just about everything.”
Finding ways to move the ball has helped Illinois reestablish itself. Even with star point guard Andre Curbelo out, the Illini are averaging almost 19 assists per game since the loss to Cincinnati. That stat has Underwood excited before they flip the calendar.
“Just figuring out the balance, and knowing the opportunities to play off Kofi, to play at the three point line, to get guys shots,” said Underwood. “And then you have to figure out, okay they’re going to scheme you, they’re going to do some things and try to take some options away. So how do we go about attacking that. That’s been the process and now we’re starting to figure that out.”
They’ve got one more game before they get to 2022. They host Florida A&M Wednesday, with tip-off at 8 p.m.