Kruger thinks big after loss

Kruger thinks big after loss

   CHAMPAIGN  It''s times like this that the University of Illinois could use a Festus Hawkins, a Brett Robisch, someone to help out with the inside stuff.

   The board scores are in, and for the Illini, there''s some rather disturbing news. Wednesday''s 36-21 rebounding disadvantage at Iowa, the worst beating they''ve taken this season, gives their opponents more boards (713) than the Illini (701).

   No other Big Ten team can stake that claim.

   "We may look at some changes," Illinois coach Lon Kruger said Thursday. "We''re just not very big, and we''ve got to look at that carefully. We don''t have a lot of options, but I think we''ve got to consider getting bigger if we possibly can."

   With tall, talented Indiana on deck for the UI, the days of the three-guard lineup may be numbered. In the last five games, Kruger has started guards Kevin Turner, Kiwane Garris and Matt Heldman alongside frontliners Chris Gandy and Jarrod Gee.

   Worked well against Minnesota, but Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State all had success inside against the smallish Illini, the three shooting 58.2 percent, 54.5 and 50.0, respectively.

   And during their current two-game losing streak, the Illini have gotten small things out of their big packages, Gandy combining for 24 points.

   "We need some offense inside," Kruger said. "The perimeter''s going to continue to be the base for us offensively, but we need to keep people a little more honest."

   Expect to see more of freshman forward Victor Chukwudebe come Sunday when Illinois, 14-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten, travels to 17th-ranked Indiana, 18-4 and 5-3, for a noon game.

   Chukwudebe logged the most minutes of his Big Ten life Wednesday at Iowa, 15. He''d played 10-plus in seven other games, but never a conference one.

   Chukwudebe took more shots against the Hawkeyes (seven) than he had in six previous Big Ten games (five), scoring four points, sparring inside with the taller Hawkeyes and catching Kruger''s eye.

   Chances are, he''s one of those changes Kruger''s talking about.

   "Victor played a few more minutes and he needs to be on the floor more," Kruger said. "He''s a guy that plays hard and plays with emotion and rebounds like we need."

   Gee grabbed just one rebound in 25 minutes Wednesday. This, two days after snaring three against Wisconsin.

   "To point him out would be misleading," Kruger said. "We''ve got to get better across the board in terms of results.

   "Our effort''s good, our desire''s good."

   Their results aren''t so good.

   Three-game Big Ten losing streaks are nothing new to the Illini  a loss to Indiana would give them six in the 1990s  but the margins of defeat are worrisome.

   The last time the Hawkeyes beat Illinois worse than they did Wednesday was 1976, a season that''s popping up a lot lately.

   That was also the year that the Illini suffered a worse Assembly Hall defeat than it did against Wisconsin last weekend.

   "You hate to get beat badly," Kruger said. "... I don''t know if wer''re putting enough significance in fighting to keep the ball out of the net."

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