Panic time for Illini basketball?

By Ryan Dixon

Yeah. It’s panic time. We’re all thinking it, so I might as well say it.

Don’t get me wrong. Illinois has exceeded expectations already this season. But expectations change. Anything short of an NCAA Tournament berth will be a disappointment.

But the Illini just refuse to put anything together on the road.

Illinois blew the lead in East Lansing against Michigan State, forgot where the state of Minnesota was and barely showed up Thursday night in a 63-50 loss to the Badgers.

Illinois hasn’t looked bad on the road. They’ve looked downright atrocious. The Illini haven’t won away from the Assembly Hall since Dec. 30 at Purdue.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

The Badgers have had it out for the Orange and Blue ever since Jack Ingram and the Illini ended Wisconsin’s 38-game homecourt-winning streak in 2005. Pair that with Illinois’ win against the Badgers earlier this season, and you had to know Bo Ryan’s boys were going to be jacked up for some revenge at the Kohl Center.

By the way, it totally figures. Wisconsin was on a six-game losing streak heading into the game, and I think the stars aligned for Jason Bohannon, who finished a mortal 6-of-7 from behind the arc. (sarcastic pause)

The Illini executed a 7-0 run within the first few minutes of the second half, which pulled them within 10 points … but that was about it.

In case you didn’t watch the game, the Badgers tried to let Illinois back into the contest. But nobody, save Mike Davis (14 points), could hit from the field.

What hurt Illinois the most was that Thursday night’s game was huge in the big picture of the Big Ten. If the Illini could have beaten the Badgers, they would have claimed sole possession of second place in the conference.

Instead, Illinois (6-4 in the Big Ten) fell back with the rest of the pack – behind MSU and Purdue, and tied with Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State.

It was painful to watch. No one was able to bury a shot, and Illinois shot a dismal 32.8 percent in the game.

I’ve been trying to think about what else it could be besides playing on the road that’s been placing a flaming bag on the Illini’s doorstep.

What’s wrong with Trent Meacham? The Illini guard has been MIA recently, averaging only 4.8 points per game in his last six contests. Meacham was supposed to be one of the vital cogs in a well-oiled offensive machine this year. Demetri McCamey most certainly can’t carry the entire offensive burden by himself.

And Alex Legion hasn’t produced as much “instant offense” as most of us expected. I don’t know if Legion has achieved “chucker” status via Jerry Seinfeld, but he’s getting close.

It’s the silly mistakes Legion makes that gets me scratching my head. Far too often, the Kentucky transfer forces a shot or travels on the baseline, which inevitably results in Weber’s, “What the heck was that?” face. You know the look I’m talking about – red face, wants to call a timeout, dropped jaw, etc.

If Illinois doesn’t figure out how to snag any more wins on the road, Illini fans might be seeing that dumbfounded look more often … followed by yelling. Lots of yelling.

Ryan Dixon is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]