Illinois is in a position to go one of two ways the rest of the season.
The Illini can still go up. They’re still in the race for the Big Ten title. Despite losing back-to-back games, Illinois is only one game behind the conference’s leaders.
Then again, the Illini still can finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, too. It’s hard to say Illinois is much better than anyone in the conference right now. None of its Big Ten wins have been decisive.
With 11 conference games remaining, Illinois coach Bruce Weber understands the importance of his team’s upcoming games.
“This is the breaking point of the season,” Weber said on Monday. “You got to make some strides. You got to correct some little things and just come with a great mindset.”
Illinois has until Saturday to prepare for its next game at Minnesota. The Illini are coming off a home loss to Wisconsin and a road loss to Penn State.
Illinois struggled on the boards against Wisconsin. Turnovers plagued the Illini against Penn State. Both games were decided by a total of six points.
“I hope the motivation is you lost two in a row,” Weber said. “I feel bad. I feel rotten. You lose games. It’s part of coaching. You put so much time into it. At the same point, we’re two points away from Penn State, a possession. We’re one or two possessions against Wisconsin. We’re not that far off.
“Now, we got to figure out what things we can correct. One of the problems I think with our team is each game it’s a little different. One game, it’s turnovers. You get that kind of taken care of. The next game, you don’t rebound or something. I think that’s part of having inexperienced guys who that are still trying to figure it.”
The week off could allow Illinois to get some of its banged-up players healed. Sam Maniscalco (ankle), D.J. Richardson (wrist, knee) and Meyers Leonard (ankle) were dealing with injuries, according to Weber.