The Illinois Fighting Illini started off the Big Ten Conference season with a loss to the unranked Purdue Boilermakers. In a tough conference that has six ranked teams, this was definitely not the start head coach John Groce was looking for.
Illinois has a poor field goal percentage on the season and that carried into tonight’s game. Illinois shot .356 from the field in the team’s 61-68 loss. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Illinois ranked 134th in the NCAA with an average of .445 field goal percentage per game.
The interesting statistic from Wednesday’s loss was that Illinois actually had a higher percentage from behind the three point line than the rest of the floor. Illinois hit 10 of 26 three point shots (.385), while managing only 11 of 33 two point shots (.333). Illinois now has shot under .400 in four of its fifteen games, including its two losses. The team’s loss to Missouri saw a season low .338 shooting percentage.
I predicted Illinois to finish fifth in the Big Ten with an 11-7 conference record. Coincidentally, I picked Purdue to finish 10th with only four conference wins. I mentioned that Illinois needed to improve its shooting percentage and also its rebounding. The team was once again outrebounded, by a margin of 38-31 against the Boilermakers.
Illinois faces a tough task of competing in the Big Ten after starting out the 2012-2013 season on such a high note. Shooting needs to improve immediately as the team now faces two ranked opponents in Ohio State and Minnesota back to back. Ohio State and Minnesota both rank in the top sixty nationally in rebounds and field goal percentage, which could cause trouble for Illinois. The Fighting Illini need to regroup and win one of these games or it will face a large hole of 0-3 in conference play.