The Illinois basketball team improved to 7-3 with back-to-back comeback wins against Penn State and Indiana, moving to No. 15 in the AP Poll.
The Illini silenced its doubters, bouncing back in a big way with wins against Penn State and Indiana after dropping a close road game to Rutgers on December 20. Those victories, however, didn’t come easily, as both games required comebacks to get back on track in conference play. Not only that, the Orange and Blue showed their resilience in both games, demonstrating how dynamic their offense can become in key situations.
With those wins, the Illini propelled themselves to No. 15 in the AP Poll, as they look to get on a roll when 2021 is officially underway on Friday.
Here are three observations from Illinois’ 2-0 week, as they look to continue their winning ways on January 2 when they host Purdue.
Ayo Dosunmu looks like the nation’s best guard.
When you need a spark, look no further than No. 11. Dosunmu led the way with 30 points in the Indiana win, hitting a key three-pointer to put the Illini ahead late in the second half.
Dosunmu has also showcased the ability to become a closer for the Orange and Blue as well, putting together the intangibles to be a leader and defend his teammates at all costs.
Look for Dosunmu to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and if drafted by a contender, he could help lead his squad over the hump and into the postseason.
Andre Curbelo continues to play like a veteran, not a freshman.
Curbelo has shown instant flashes of brilliance and has been a key contributor on all ends of the floor. He provides the energy off the bench that the Illini need to win the close ones, as he put together a 15-point performance against Penn State while tailing 8 assists and 3 rebounds.
The young freshman is someone not to be taken lightly and will eventually become a starter in the rotation, though most believe Curbelo has earned that right already.
The Big Ten won’t be a cakewalk.
It goes without saying; the Big Ten is loaded with dark horses this year. Penn State nearly upset the Illini at home before blowing a 19-4 first-half lead.
Marcus Carr and the Minnesota Golden Gophers upset No. 4 Iowa on Christmas Day, and Northwestern is off to its best start in over two decades, as they were ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll. With all of these sudden changes and upset alerts, no game, at least this year, is a sure-fire victory.
Overall, Brad Underwood and Company should be proud of themselves as 2021 looms large in the world of college basketball.