Thursday, January 29, 2009
Illinois has enjoyed a lot of success at home this season, to the tune of an eight game winning streak at Assembly Hall. Starting tonight, the Illini will be playing four of six on the road and it's time to show they deserve to stay in the top 25.
People will point out that Illinois hasn't won on the road in about a month, but the Illini haven't exactly had a ton of chances to get wins on the road. That stretch has been two games. As for tonight, if they could choose a road game (other than Indiana), Minnesota would be the one. Illinois has a 20 game winning streak against the Gophers, eight of those on the road.
However, these aren't your older brother's Golden Gophers. Tubby Smith's squad has home wins against Louisville, Ohio State, and a blowout of Penn State. So what are the keys to beating the Gophers?
First, Illinois has to dominate inside. Minnesota has decent bigs, but Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale should be able to win this battle. Secondly, the Illini need to slow down Lawrence Westbrook. The Minnesota guard isn't easy to, well...guard. He's very quick and can get to the basket, but can also hit the three if you give him space. Finally, Illinois need to take care of the ball. The first two goals shouldn't be too hard to acheive; Illinois has better big men and plays great defense, so turnovers are their biggest fear.
Game is on tonight, 8PM on the Big Ten Network.