MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WCIA) — Illinois basketball takes the court tonight as a Top 10 team in the country. The Illini (2-0) moved up a spot in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll to No. 10. The top three teams remained the same in Gonzaga, UCLA and Kansas, while Michigan moved up two spots to No. 4 with Purdue at No. 8. Illinois is playing its first true road game with non-capacity fans since the 2019-2020 season, March 5th, 2020 at Ohio State. For guys like Andre Curbelo, Coleman Hawkins, Jacob Grandison and the freshmen, this is their first road game in that capacity with the Illini.
“I’m expecting a sell out crowd or close to it but none of them are going to be for us,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “We were terrific on the road last year, minus the fans, but it’s still the challenge of maturity, toughness, you’ve really got to be good on the defensive end. Those things get amplified even more, and that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
The Illini went 9-3 last season in road games, to go along with a 4-2 mark on neutral courts. But that was in front of little to no fans, other than the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
“Everybody is buying into playing hard and giving it an all out effort which is really hard to do,” Grandison said. “We hear every single day that defense wins championships, and guys buying into that will be key to our defense. so there’s a lot more to come.”