The Fighting Illini staved off Ohio State at home, 79-74, and had become the feel-good story of the Big Ten season.
Then they played some more games. Eight more, to be precise. And they lost seven, the latest at home Wednesday night to Purdue. The lone win at that time was a 42-41 homecourt triumph over Michigan State that was on ESPN and did serious harm to the league’s national image.
A lot more harm was felt in Champaign the following Sunday when the Illini lost at home to Northwestern.
So Illinois is now 5-8, a half-game behind 5-7 Iowa. The two squads could be tied at 5-8 after Iowa’s game at Penn State Thursday night. Or not. But for a day, the Hawkeyes have “ascended” above an Illinois team that was in the Top 25 a month ago.
I don’t know if that represents progress for the Hawkeyes. But it certainly spells trouble in Champaign. Trouble with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P” and that stands for pool!
Oh by the way, Penn State is 298th in the nation in scoring, 306th in assists per game, and 332nd in field goal percentage.
So if Iowa is tripped up by the Nittany Lions, Illinois fans can return the derisive laughter.
Well, maybe not. Penn State beat the Illini on Jan. 19, 54-52.