Going into tonight’s game against Iowa, Illinois is 5-10 in the Big Ten – leading to countless what-happened-to-Illinois and will-Bruce-Weber-be-fired stories.
But it could be worse. Much worse.
How did the Illini win five Big Ten games? It’s a miracle.
The Illini won those five games by a combined 21 points. Two of the wins were in overtime. And one was – let’s face it – thanks to a freak game by Brandon Paul.
Here’s a look a that the five Illinois conference wins, all five of which were losable:
Illinois 81, Minnesota 72 2OT
The Illini blew a 13-point lead in the second half to let the Gophers back into the game. Meyers Leonard blocked a Maverick Ahanmisi layup at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime.
Julian Welch missed layup with 20 seconds to play in the first overtime, and Sam Maniscalco missed a three for the Illini with 10 seconds to play.
The Illini improved to 1-0 – and first place in the Big Ten!
Illinois 57, Northwestern 56
The Illini led by eight with 91 seconds to play before Northwestern closed on an 8-2 run. It would have been 10-2, except Leonard blocked Drew Crawford’s shot with three seconds to play.
The Illini improve to 2-1. So far so good.
Illinois 59, Nebraska 54
The Cornhuskers led with under five minutes to play, but the Illini closed with a 14-6 run to avert a disastrous loss to Nebraska in Champaign.
3-1 in the Big Ten!
Illinois 79, Ohio State 74 OT
Brandon Paul went bananas and scored 43 points to lead Illinois over No. 5 Ohio State in Champaign.
This game was Jan. 10. The Illini were 4-1 in the Big Ten.
They would win one more game in the conference …
Illinois 42, Michigan State 41
Keith Appling missed a free throw at the end of the game to give the win to Illinois in a game that saw neither team score as many points as Brandon Paul in the Ohio State game.