Illini remain even-keeled
EVANSTON — After big wins like the one at UNLV, ending the four-game skid to Missouri and the overtime thriller against Indiana to open Big Ten play, Tracy Abrams knew when he checked his phone in the locker room that it was going to be constantly buzzing with congratulatory texts, calls and tweets.
“That definitely comes with it. People just want to say ‘Good game’ or something like that,” the Illinois guard said.
It’s a different situation following a 25-point blowout defeat like the one Abrams and the Illini suffered at the hands of Wisconsin on Wednesday in Madison.
“It’s definitely crickets,” Abrams said.
With some negativity mixed in there, mainly from strangers on social media.
“To me, I just look at it like ‘Whatever’ and just think of what I can do to help the team out for the next game,” Abrams said.
After Sunday’s game at rival Northwestern (6:30 p.m., BTN) Abrams is hoping his phone is so busy with positive feedback that he’ll have to make sure it’s charged for the bus ride back to the UI campus. That would signify an Illinois win and also would mean the program hasn’t lost back-to-back games since dropping contests at Iowa and Ohio State to close the 2012-13 regular season.
One of the staples of the John Groce era at Illinois has been his team’s dedication in putting the last game behind, no matter the outcome.
He reminds them frequently that they’re not rock stars when they win and are playing well and — no matter how bad the defeat — they’re not the scum of the Earth.
In the practices leading up to Sunday’s game against first-year coach Chris Collins and the Wildcats, the response from the players has been good.
“We always talk about, win or lose, learning from it, moving forward and having amnesia when it comes to the emotional piece of a win or loss, and we’ve got to move on and be tough enough to do that,” Groce said. “I’ve really liked our disposition the last couple of days.”