Tuesday's victory against MSU at home was nothing short of a "grind it out" victory. Here's some thoughts on the team following that game, and heading into Saturday's home game against Minnesota:
1. Defense was the key to victory on Tuesday. Kudos to Rich McBride for hounding Drew Neitzel the entire game.
2. Sean Pruitt is playing very consistently in the post these days. He is steadily racking up double-doubles each game. However, he is really stinking at freethrows. Man, how many did he miss during crunch time against Michigan St.? As he becomes Illinois' main offensive threat on the inside, if not as a whole, then he is only going to get fouled more and more. Hack-a-Shaq will become Hack-a-Sean. He MUST get better at shooting those free throws.
3. Jamar Smith is slumping so badly, the Illini almost can't afford to play him any more.
4. Chester Frazier played a solid game. He hit some big time shots in the second half while driving in to the lane with the shot clock running down. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. His defense was solid too, especially considering his turf toe status. If he can get healthy, and learn to always play within himself, he will be a pretty serviceable point guard.
Well, I'm looking forward to the Minnesota game. If Illinois can play well, then a victory will put them at .500 in the Big Ten. A favorable schedule the rest of the way means that the NCAA tourney is still within reach.