CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The difference between the good Illini team and the ‘yell at the TV Illini’ this season is puzzling for fans. There have been stretches where No. 14 Illinois has certainly looked like a Big Ten title contender, winning at Duke, blowing out Minnesota and the second half at Northwestern. But there was still a first half in Evanston that saw the Illini down 15 points at the break before making a comeback. And that’s the rub with Illini Nation, the bar has been raised from years’ past.
Missed free throws, turnovers and slow starts are three things that stick out. The Illini (9-4, 5-2 B1G) are shooting 68 percent from the line this season, 11th in the Big Ten. Illinois has the most turnovers in the conference with 176, an average of 13.5 per game. That adds up to a turnover margin of -2.23, last in the league. Slow first half starts have hurt the Illini in several games, including Minnesota (down 8 at home in a win), at Penn State (down 15 in a win), at Northwestern (down 16 in a win).
“We’ve just to look at ourselves in the mirror and change it,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “It was frustrating (against Maryland), we didn’t get the ball to Kofi enough, I got to do a better job of that. When he gets doubled and tripled he can’t turn it over and that’s just being sloppy and not being sharp.”
Illinois was supposed to get back on the court Wednesday at Nebraska but the Huskers have paused full team activities due to positive COVID-19 results among its Tier 1 personnel. The game is postponed for now, with both teams working with the Big Ten to reschedule.