CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — No, it’s not a dream, Illini Nation. Illinois basketball is ranked fifth in the country, playing No. 2 Baylor in prime time on national television, with a chance to make a major statement in an early season showcase game. It’s the same kind of matchup Illinois had 16 years ago against top-ranked Wake Forest. Of course the Illini won that game, vaulting them to the No. 1 team in the country. Dee Brown led the team then as the face of the program. Now it’s Ayo Dosunmu.
“I tell them it’s a legacy game, seize the moment,” Dosunmu said. “A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to be a Top 5 team and play against the No. 2 team in the county, you have to come in, enjoy it, embrace everything about it because you don’t get to see this a lot.”
Dosunmu has been clutch time after time for the Illini, making several last second shots last season to lead Illinois to wins. The junior did it again last Friday against Ohio, driving to the hoop and drawing a foul with less than seven seconds left. He made both free throws and the Illini won their third straight game to open the season in their multi-team event. Dosunmu is averaging 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists in three games, shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood knows all about Baylor, in what will be the toughest test yet for the Illini. Underwood spent one season leading Oklahoma State before coming to Champaign. Before that he was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
“To do what they did last year with 23 straight wins to me is remarkable,” Underwood said about Baylor. “Being a part of that league as I was, I have tremendous respect for that streak and a lot of those guys are back so it’ll be a great test for us and one we’re excited for. We’re going to have to play very hard and very well to win.”