Slowly but surely, the magic of the impressive start by Illinois is beginning to wear off.
The latest indication was Saturday against Wisconsin on the road.
The Fighting Illini were rocked 74-51 by the Badgers, who played, perhaps, their best game of the season as they remained unbeaten in conference play. Illinois, meanwhile, has lost four of its last six games after a remarkable 12-0 start.
“That’s as well as we’ve played for a total of 40 minutes against that caliber of a team,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said in a post-game press conference. “That’s probably as good as we’ve played this year, and what you have to do is know that tomorrow, we’re practicing for the next. That’s how short-lived a victory like this can be.”
No doubt you have to forget about wins just as quickly as you forget about losses, but it won’t be easy for the Fighting Illini to do it.
Once a team on the rise in the national poll, Illinois is now sending out reminders that it still has a long way to go to be a contender in the Big Ten.
The Fighting Illini’s biggest problem against the Badgers is that it didn’t match the intensity and effort needed to compete against a formidable opponent on the road.
“At the end of the day, their competitive spirit was better than ours at the start of the game,” Illinois head coach John Groce said in a post-game press conference. “That is not acceptable. That is not what we’re about.”
Illinois is going to have to figure out things in a hurry because it’s magic is slipping away and it seems destined for an average season at the moment.
Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.