Any team can play well coming off of a win. But it’s how a team plays after a setback, especially against a rival, that gives you a feel for how good a team really is.
Everyone has been drooling over Illinois’ hot start to the season.
Illinois won its first 12 games and rose into the top 10, a far cry from the train wreck ending to its 2011-12 campaign. Missouri dropped the Illini back to reality with an 82-73 loss last week in the Braggin’ Rights game. The Illini can’t afford a second straight loss.
Illinois needs to take care of business against Auburn. A loss to a mediocre Tigers team will force some to question just how good this team can be in the Big Ten.
For the Illini, it’s all about execution against the Tigers, especially when it comes to shooting the basketball.
Illinois thrived on sharp shooting from 3-point range during its remarkable start to the season. It shot 8-of-32 against Missouri, the low point of a stretch of games where the Illini have struggled to be consistent from beyond the arc.
They knocked down 41.9 percent of their long-range shots in the first eight games. This month, they have shot 29.7 percent from 3-point range.
Illinois doesn’t need to shoot lights out to beat Auburn. But it better shoot better than 29.7 percent or the Illini is going to end up shooting itself in the foot in a game it should win.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association as well.
Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.