Illinois Basketball: A big momentum building opportunity for the Illini

Illinois v Maryland
Illinois v Maryland / David Berding/GettyImages

Wednesday is a pretty big day for the women’s Illinois basketball team as we try to make a push to rise in the Big Ten.

This season has been a bit confusing. Last year, the Illini shocked the world and made a run to the NCAA tournament. Winning 22 games in a season is something most fans have never witnessed. But in year one under Shauna Green, she made winning that many games a reality.

With much of the roster returning, expectations remained high. The 2023-24 campaign hasn’t played out the same way, though. Coming into this past Sunday, Illinois had failed to win a Big Ten game, sitting at 0-4 in the conference. We were 6-8 overall as well.

If you have watched any of the games, you could clearly tell that this team wasn’t far off. We were losing by one or two possessions, and if the ball literally bounced our way in the final moments, more wins would be on the board.

Northwestern felt our wrath on Sunday. After dropping six out of the last seven games, the Illini took out our anger on the Wildcats in the form of a 93-52 blowout up in Evanston. This game was over quickly, as Illinois looked the best we had all season long.

Illinois basketball needs a win on Wednesday, as we move into a tough part of the Big Ten schedule

From the jump, the Illini were clearly the better team than Northwestern. Camille Hobby was dominating on both ends of the court and outscored the Wildcats through the first quarter. Illinois was also hitting shots and cleaning up on the glass. It was fun to watch. This was 2022-23 Illinois basketball all over again.

On Wednesday night, Illinois is back in action against the worst team in the Big Ten. Rutgers comes to town with a record of 6-13 overall and winless in the Big Ten at 0-6. This is a perfect opportunity to put another win on the board and to continue building momentum for the season.

Another blowout win would give the Illini so much confidence, something I believe has been missing the last month or so. That confidence is greatly needed, as the Big Ten schedule is about to get nasty.

On Saturday, Illinois heads to Maryland. The Terrapins are 11-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. They are a team that is coming off an Elite 8 appearance last season, but they are beatable. The momentum and confidence Illinois can build over the past two games will hopefully seep into the matchup on Saturday. A win over Maryland would be incredible for the future of the season.

Illinois then takes on No. 18 Ohio State the following Thursday. The top of the Big Ten is tough, and the Buckeyes are one of those programs. Ohio State is 13-3 on the season and 4-1 in the conference.

While a big win on Wednesday will help a lot, Illinois is going to have to forge ahead without one of our best rotation players. Jada Peebles posted on social media on Tuesday night that she had suffered a torn Achilles.

Illinois will now be missing a lot of production off the bench. Peebles averaged 4.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. I think the most she brought to the court was energy. Peebles was a quick guard who could really put the opposing defense on their heels. She will be missed in the Illinois rotation.

Tonight is a big confidence builder for the Orange and Blue. If we can take care of business and put Rutgers away early, I hope that momentum will carry into the rest of the 2023-24 campaign.