Start the game strong offensively: There’s no positive way to put it. The Illinois Fighting Illini stunk on the offensive side of the ball in the team’s 95-70 loss to #4 Wisconsin. Yes, the Illini picked things up in the second half, but their poor first half shooting put them in a hole that they couldn’t dig out of. That cannot happen if Illinois wants to win Sunday against Northwestern. They will need to shoot the ball well from the opening tip or else things could get nasty in Evanston.
Bench production: In every single broadcast of Illinois basketball this season, the announcers and analysts love to mention how young the Illini bench is as it consists of all freshman. There have been three players from the Illinois bench that have received considerable playing time (for different reasons) over the past time games. These three players are Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, and Kendrick Nunn. It is pretty clear that these three players are Coach Groce’s “go-to-players” off the bench and will need to pick up their production in order to make Illinois a stronger team.
Force Northwestern into foul trouble: Foul trouble has been a problem for the Wildcats in their past three Big Ten games. In their last loss against #20 Iowa, Northwestern committed a total of 28 fouls and had two players (JerShon Cobb and Alex Olah) fouled out of the game. The Fighting Illini will need to force the Wildcats into foul trouble if they want a chance at winning the game. It’d be nice to see Rayvonte Rice drive to the basket more than he did in the loss to Wisconsin. If he and the other Illini can do that and force Northwestern into foul trouble, than they can win the game.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.