Role identification helping Illini basketball during five-game win streak


IOWA CITY, Iowa (WCIA) — Illinois basketball is on a season high five-game win streak after a four-point win at Iowa Monday night. Only six guys played double-digit minutes as Illini head coach Brad Underwood leaned on his experience and older guys to carry them to the road victory. A solidified rotation and role identification are two reasons why the Illini say they’re finding success after early season losses to Marquette and Cincinnati.

“I think we’ve changed a lot,” Illinois senior guard Jacob Grandison said, referring to the two losses. “I think we’ve identified some roles which is key and was the turning point of last year. Everybody has an understanding of what they should do. Big Ten play has put everything into perspective a little bit this is go time.”

“I feel like guys are starting to buy in now, even the freshmen as you can see on the bench, it’s really more active, it’s loud,” Illinois junior center Kofi Cockburn said. “Guys are buying into their roles and the culture of playing hard every night. Sometimes the ball doesn’t score but the tougher teams win.”

The Illini (7-2, 2-0 B1G) are learning their roles with one of their best players on the bench. Andre Curbelo has missed the last four games due to an unspecified injury. He has only appeared in four games this season, after going down with a concussion in the preseason. He cleared protocol and returned to the court against Arkansas State in the second game of the season. The sophomore point guard and reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year hasn’t played more than 26 minutes in a game though and was limited in his last appearance against Kansas State in the Hall of Fame Classic. Underwood has been mum on Curbelo’s condition since saying he was dealing with “head trauma” that night in Kansas City, adding since that he is no longer in the protocol.

Illinois faces its toughest test of the season this weekend when No. 11 Arizona visits State Farm Center Saturday at 4 p.m.

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