The unranked Illinois Fighting Illini team just won its second consecutive game against a top 25 team by beating the Minnesota Gophers today. They now have five victories over team currently in the top-25, and they are starting to come together at the right time. March is just around the corner, and teams need to push themselves into winning games so that their resume will get them a bid to the big dance. They seem like they salvaged their season with this terrific week.
The Big 10 is a loaded league, and everyone is fighting to make it in the top-5 of the league. The illini is no different, and they are playing tough right now with a will to win.
Brandon Paul of the Illini said this about this conference: “We feel like we can compete with anybody and we can win any game we play…the Big Ten is so crazy. It’s tough anywhere you go, especially on the road. So you find a way to tough it out.” That is what they did on the road today in Minnesota.
So what is bringing this team together? According to coach John Groce, “one thing that is happening now is that people trust each other…they trust the system more. They’re sticking with the game plan even when they’re behind.” Trusting each other even when you are down by 10 points, knowing that you can get back in the game and helping one another do it. That is why this team has a renewed focus and determination.
The Illini took advantage of the Gophers mistakes, and capitalized on them. When they needed stops, they got stops and when they needed to score, they scored. Today they were inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball, and this was one of their lowest points scored in any of their wins this season. Paul even said “We want to finish the season strong, and that’s something that’s definitely in the back of our minds every game.”
John D. Hayden is a Writer and Contributor for RantSports.com, covering the NCAA and NBA. Follow John on twitter @jdhayden09, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.