Something's gotta give in this one. The Big Ten Conference has always been known for its rough and tumble play, and this season, it is no different. The Fighting Illini have undergone their share of ups and downs in the conference as well this season, and lately, most of it has been on the down side. After getting out to a 2-0 start in the Big Ten, the Illini have lost their last 4 games, including surprising losses to Northwestern and Purdue. The other two losses, to Wisconsin and Michigan State, were expected, and the fears of many in Illini Nation have been realized in that this is not a good shooting team. To make matters worse, Coach John Groce has been more animated on the sidelines, and even earned a technical foul in the 78-62 loss to the Spartans last Saturday night at the State Farm Center in Champaign. Groce, who was agitated at one of the officials for not getting some illegal screen calls during the game, had evidently had enough and shed his sportcoat, which resulted in the technical foul. Groce has since apologized for his actions, and while the energy is good, some of the actions are a little over the top. The Illini, now 13-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten, will hit the road for the first of two games Thursday night when they travel to Columbus, Ohio to battle the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena (6:00 pm CT, ESPN). The Buckeyes, ranked #15 in the country, have fallen on hard times themselves as of late, losing their last 4 games after sprinting out to a 15-0 start. This is the first 4 game losing streak for the Buckeyes since the 2005 season, so this is essentially foreign territory to them. The history between Groce and Ohio State coach Thad Matta goes way back to their days at Butler, where Groce was an assistant on Matta's staff. They also coached together at Xavier, and also at Ohio State. When this game was viewed on the schedule, nobody had any idea that the winner of this contest would have sole possession of 8th place in the conference, but with the Big Ten being as it is this year, that is what they are playing for.
Matt Bollant's Illini women's squad broke its own four game losing streak last week at Northwestern, but they still have a long way to go before they are playing at the level the second year coach wants them to play. The Illini played their first of two straight games in the state of Michigan last Saturday and lost 69-60 to the Wolverines. The Illini played from behind for the entire game, and cut the lead to 6 late in the contest, but Michigan hit 7 of their final 8 free throws to seal the victory. The Illini were led by Ivory Crawford, who scored 19 points. Jacqui Grant added 16, while Amber Moore chipped in 15 for Illinois, who fell to 8-10 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten with the loss. The Illini will travel back to Michigan on Thursday night when they take on the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing (6:00 pm CT, No TV).
With the spring semester just beginning on campus, it may be a ways off in the distance, but the 2014 Spring Football schedule has been set, with workouts beginning on Tuesday, March 4th. The Spring game will be on Saturday, April 12th at 2:00 pm. Hopefully with all of the junior college transfers that Coach Tim Beckman has coming in, plus the fact that all of the youth that saw much action last season hopefully turns the needle up for the football program. They need some success, and they need it fast.