Illinois Kicks Off Big Ten Tournament With Win

By Josh Paulisin
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After an embarrassing loss to Big Ten regular-season champion MichiganIllinois has managed to bounce back with two-straight victories.

The Fighting Illini’s latest win came at the opening tip of the Big Ten tournament as they defeated the No. 8 seed Indiana 64-54 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Leading the way for the No. 9 seed Illinois was Tracy Abrams who had 25 points to go along with seven rebounds. Junior guard Rayvonte Rice chipped in 10 points.

Indiana (17-15, 7-11) was led by sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell who scored 14 points as the Hoosiers struggled to shoot from the field. The combination of cold shooting and 16 Hoosier turnovers fueled the fire for an Illinois victory.

Illinois (19-13, 7-11) now takes on No.1 seed Michigan tomorrow afternoon as it looks to perform better than the previous meeting between these two teams. The Wolverines torched the Fighting Illini in Champaign, Ill. back on March 4 in an 84-53 rout that saw the maize and blue shoot a scalding 57 percent from the field. Illinois shot only 37 percent, including 11 percent from behind the arc, leaving it no chance against the Big Ten champs.

As the scene moves to Indianapolis, things could change on a dime. Michigan (23-7, 15-3) has been off almost a full week while Illinois gained confidence in its victory Thursday afternoon. Not to mention, the Wolverines still rely on outside shooting for their offense. If Michigan struggles with rust and a new setting, the Fighting Illini can take advantage and make tomorrow interesting.

While Michigan is a lock for the NCAA tournament, Illinois will most likely have to run the table and win the conference tournament in order to get in. If the Fighting Illini can get past Michigan, they have a legitimate shot against either Ohio State or Nebraska in the semifinals.

But first things first — Illinois vs. Michigan tomorrow afternoon.

Josh Paulisin is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports. He is also an NHL Contributor. Follow him on Twitter,”like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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