CHAMPAIGN — After playing three games during a seven-day stretch, the Illinois basketball team finally took a day off Sunday after Saturday’s loss to then-No. 4 Michigan State.
Illini coach John Groce said on Monday getting a day to recover and get away from the game for a bit was a good opportunity for his players to unwind after a rough start to the Big Ten season.
“I’m sure they got a chance to enjoy that and get away from it a little bit,” he said. “It was game, two days, game, two days, game.”
After Sunday’s day away from the gym, the Illini (13-6, 2-4 Big Ten) will have the luxury of three days of practice before traveling to Columbus for Thursday’s game against No. 17 Ohio State, which dropped its fourth straight game Monday, 68-62 at Nebraska.
Scouting the Buckeyes will be a part of the agenda, but ironing out the kinks of the current four-game slide will be Groce’s top priority for his team.
“It’s more about us right now, getting better at what we do and how we do it. I think that’s what we’re going to lock in on.”
Defense and rebounding, two staples of Illinois’ early-season success, have been inconsistent of late. Getting some individual players who have been struggling back on track is also on the coach’s mind.
“We’ve got a couple guys that need to be playing a little bit better and I’m confident that they will,” Groce said. “Sometimes you just go through that as a player, as a team where you’ve got to grind and fight through some things. We’ve got that right now and that’s OK, that’s part of it.”