Illinois Fighting Illini? More Like The Struggling Illini At The Moment

Bradley Leeb – USA TODAY Sports Images

Illinois needs to do something about the train wreck it has been a part of lately.

The Fighting Illini have been the struggling Illini as of late, dropping four of their last five and picking up only two wins since the calendar turned to 2013. It was a great story when Illinois was rolling through opponents and rising up the rankings, but now this is a team that needs to right itself in a hurry before any hope for the postseason (NCAA or NIT) goes tumbling off a cliff.

It’s latest loss came at the hands of Michigan on Sunday as Illinois fell 74-60. There is no shame in losing to the Wolverines, who are now the new No. 1 team in the country. Illinois shot a miserable 37.1 percent from the field against Michigan and is shooting just 42.8 percent as a team.

The Fighting Illini, though, have been off the mark from a shooting standpoint since the new year began and it won’t be easy to get the shooting touch back. More time in the gym will help, but sometimes getting back on track offensively starts with how well you play on the defensive end of the floor.

Illinois has given up 70 or more points in three of its last five losses. It nearly gave up 70 to Northwestern as well in a 68-54 loss. The one thing Illinois did well during its strong start to the year was play hard on the defensive end of the floor. It needs to get back to doing that. Energy and effort on defense will translate into success on offense, and if Illinois can get its shooting touch back, it still has a chance to salvage this season.

Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.

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