Illini stumble in seventh straight Big Ten loss

Illini stumble in seventh straight Big Ten loss

MADISON, Wis. — Friday night’s 75-50 Wisconsin win was new for Illinois. The Illini hadn’t lost by more than 10 points all season and been particularly close in the Big Ten with a trio of overtime losses and two defeats by a single point.

It was new for first-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood, too.

“I haven’t been a part of too many shellackings like this,” he said. “They were terrific tonight.

How the Badgers roughed up the Illini to the tune of a 25-point victory, though, stuck with Underwood. It was how he’d like to see his team play.

“They just picked us apart,” Underwood said. “They’re so skilled. I love their team. It’s everything I’m about — passing and unselfish play. I enjoy watching them play. …
“They were a much better basketball team than we were tonight. For the first time all year, I didn’t feel good going into my locker room about the effort that our guys put forward, and that’s something I take a tremendous amount of pride in.”

The loss marked seven straight in Big Ten play for Illinois this season, matching the 1998-99 team. Redshirt junior forward Leron Black said the message from Underwood hasn’t changed.

The response the Illini need hasn’t changed either. Black said he’s going to keep fighting, and he’s not going to let his teammates fail to do the same.

“Coach is trying to build, in the program, a fighting mentality, and that’s what we’re going to have,” said Black, who led the Illini with 16 points. “We’re going to keep fighting and keep pushing and play hard every game.”

Black is one of the Illini veterans that has spoken up in the locker room about the way the team is playing. Michael Finke’s done the same. Mark Alstork, too.

“Everybody is really trying to chip in and say what they mean,” said Alstork, who had nine points and 10 rebounds against the Badgers. “We all need to air it out. Whatever it is, we have to figure out a way to play harder for each other. We’ve got to figure it out. We can’t keep losing ball games.”

Illinois had lost its previous six Big Ten games by a combined 33 points. That makes Friday’s 25-point Wisconsin rout even more of an outlier.

Trailing by 11 points at halftime, though, wasn’t exactly rare territory for the Illini. They’ve faced similar deficits this season and responded. Not always won, but responded.

It didn’t happen against the Badgers.

“We just got off to a rough start and couldn’t come back from it,” Black said. “We just couldn’t get stops.”

“I feel like we’re just not getting consistent effort,” Alstork added. “We need to become a more together group. Normally, this doesn’t happen. I don’t really know what the issue was (Friday).”

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OrlandoIllini wrote on January 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

Illini offense: Plodding. Predictable. They bring the ball up court slowly. Can’t pass, catch or shoot the ball. They wait for someone else to make a play. No penetration. 26 seconds of perimeter dribbling and handoffs followed by four seconds of panic. Endless unforced turnovers.

Illini defense: Very active. Even more porous than active. Not getting back on defense. Opponents unimpeded almost every play. Fouling rather than defending. They quit.

Biggest problem: No Bigs. Finke is a Long, Black is a Strong, but there are no Bigs.

2017-18 could easily be the first season when Illini football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball do not have a single Big Ten conference victory among them. Thank Mike Thomas and his coaching hires for this embarrassing mess.


BruckJr wrote on January 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Certainly Thomas shares most of the blame but keep in mind it was Whitman who brought in all three of the coaches that you mentioned.

OrlandoIllini wrote on January 20, 2018 at 5:01 pm

I named no coaches, and I was referring to Beckman, Groce and Bollant.


BruckJr wrote on January 20, 2018 at 7:01 pm

As bad as those coaches were they seem to have had better results than their successors.  

OrlandoIllini wrote on January 20, 2018 at 8:01 pm

It’s not a matter of their W/L records… it’s that they devastated their respective programs. Beckman was epically the worst, being the cause of player abuse. Bollant’s regime was charged with  racially discriminatory conduct and paid the complainants to settle. Groce was the least culpable of the three, but his regime gained a reputation of under-recruiting and under-coaching and under-performance. All three caused/allowed chronic damage to be done, making Illinois a place to be avoided by most top talent.


BruckJr wrote on January 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm


tonyjb47 wrote on January 20, 2018 at 4:01 am
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we simply suck, have no one that can even play a lick of ball and dont have anyone with any heart it is an embarrassment, a national laughing stock. Other teams are saying "cant wait to play illinois, thats a gaurantee win". The state of illini athletics is pathetic, pathetic, pathetic..... no wonder guys are leaving to go else where they want to go to a place where they have a chance to win. I dont blame them.....

Old School wrote on January 20, 2018 at 5:01 am

Indiana is competitive with their new first year coach.  Ohio State is competitive with their new first year coach.  Any coach worth his salt does not want to come to Illinois... and Illinois can only recruit mid major level talent at best.  Illinois as an institution just flat out stinks.  The reality sucks but that is the truth.  Donald Trump has the perfect 1 word to describe the current situation.

Moonpie wrote on January 20, 2018 at 9:01 am

The Stumbling Creampuffs!

We will win!

Shellacked again.

Wave those pom pons!