WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WCIA) — Illinois basketball heads to the Big Ten tournament playing its best basketball of the season, at least that’s how head coach Brad Underwood sees it. Those were his words after a 24-point comeback bid fell just short at No. 5 Purdue in the regular season finale on Sunday. The Illini (20-11, 11-9 B1G) rallied to tie it at 67 before the Boilermakers pulled away late for a 76-71 victory. The loss gave the Illini a No. 7 seed in the league tournament, with a rematch against No. 10 Penn State set for Thursday night at 5:30 in the United Center. The Nittany Lions swept the regular season series from the Illini.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball,” Underwood said. “I really think we’ve shown that we can play with anybody in this tournament. It is win or go home, we’re guaranteed nothing from here on out. We’ll go fight, I know this, I wouldn’t want to play us.”
“People have been moving the cameras away from us, putting all the attention on everyone else but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Illinois junior forward Coleman Hawkins said. “And then once that camera comes back in on us and everyone is trying to talk to us again, it’s screw ’em, so we have nothing to lose.”