Illinois Fighting Illini Face Must-Win Situation Against Ohio State Buckeyes

Sandra Dukes – USA TODAY Sports Images

I know it’s only the first week of January, but the reality of Illinois game against Ohio State Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall is that it’s a must-win for the Fighting Illini.

It’s a must-win if Illinois wants any chance of winning a Big Ten championship and it’s a must-win if Illinois wants to prove it can be a team in the mix for an NCAA tourney berth rather than an NIT bid come March.

Illinois is  already a game down in league play after losing on the road to Purdue Wednesday night. But as I’ve said before, road wins are going to be tough to come by all year.

With that said, if a team wants to be one of the best in the conference, it better take care of business at home.

The Fighting Illini are capable of beating the Buckeyes, but if they are going to nail down what would be a signature conference win, they better not only defend, but they better shoot better than 35.9 percent from the floor.

The Fighting Illini better shoot better from beyond the arc as well. Yeah, they started 5-of-7 from 3-point range, but it turned out be a false sense of security as they finished the game shooting 6-of-16 from long range.

That didn’t cut it against Purdue and it sure as heck won’t cut it against the Buckeyes, who pride themselves on playing rock solid defense.

It will be interesting to see how Illinois responds after a tough road loss, but this much is for sure, if  the Fighting Illini want to prove they are for real, Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes is a must-win.

Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is also a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at collegehoopswriter@hotmail.com.

Around the Web