Beat Baylor today at Reliant Stadium and the positives for Illinois are tangible. And endless.
"It's huge for our psyche," Vic Koenning said.
Wednesday's Texas Bowl will be Illinois' 16th postseason appearance. Our look back at the previous 15, courtesy Fred Kroner:
HOUSTON – What does it mean? What is the lasting significance of the UI's 16th bowl appearance tonight?
Let's study the meaning for an Illini program that is long overdue for a happy ending:
Sixth year, second bowl game. Not as many as Ron Zook expected. But the former Florida coach thinks his Illinois program is going in the right direction. The Illini lost three of their last four games by a combined eight points and could easily have another win or three. For now, Zook's goal is to get his team past .500 in what he calls the "first game of the 2011 season."
Q: How important is a win in the Texas Bowl?
BISMARCK – Usually coaches are the ones sending messages to their players.
They often come in the form of "pick up the intensity," "box out," or "play smart."
On Tuesday, Salt Fork senior Maddy Stutsman sent a message to her coach.
MONTICELLO – It has been a while, but Monticello didn't forget what to do with a fourth-quarter lead Tuesday.
The Sages snapped a four-game losing streak and won their first game of the Holiday Hoopla tournament on the final day of pool play, holding off Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 46-39.
At State Farm Holiday Classic
In the small-schools division, Louis Acklin had five three-pointers and 22 points for St. Joseph-Ogden in its 61-58 win against Hartsburg-Emden.
Cole Hasselbring scored a team-high 17 points for CPCI in its 54-46 loss to Tri-Valley.
CHAMPAIGN – One of Amber Moore's biggest challenges in the past few months has been reaching so-called "game shape" in her conditioning.
On Tuesday, the Illinois sharpshooter seemed to have her legs under her, and the Illini benefited. Moore hit 3 of 7 three-pointers – the rest of the team went 0 for 13 – and scored 11 points in the loss to Cal. Perhaps just as important, Moore played 26 minutes – one short of her season high.
CHAMPAIGN – They do enough things properly, and play well enough in stretches, to make one think that the Illini women have the potential to be a respectable, middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team this winter.
But it is those six- or eight-minute stretches of dreadful play that have undermined the Illini's nonconference season, the latest and most glaring example being Tuesday's 65-61 setback against California.
PONTIAC – Dennis Hightower is showing he is not just a football player who happens to play basketball. The Danville junior excels in multiple sports.
Hightower scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday as the Vikings rallied to upset previously unbeaten Chicago Curie 71-57 to reach the quarterfinals of the 80th Pontiac Holiday Tournament.