After starting Big Ten play with wins over Indiana and Penn State, Illinois has hit a rough patch in the form of a four-game losing streak. The most recent of those defeats came on Saturday night, with the Fighting Illini dropping a 78-62 decision to No. 3 Michigan State in Champaign.
On what was a frustrating night head coach John Groce allowed his emotions to get the best of him, earning a technical foul for his efforts. On Wednesday Groce expressed regret about his outburst, which included Groce throwing his jacket in anger and ultimately being hit with a technical foul.
“For me, my entire life — passion, energy, emotion is a positive thing,” Groce said according to the Associated Press. “The difference between emotion and emotional is two letters. … I broke that line of emotion and, the two-letter difference, emotional.”
Groce also noted that he he didn’t provide his players with the best example of how to handle tough moments on the floor. The outburst didn’t cost his team the game, but Groce was right to note that his behavior wasn’t the best way to handle things regardless of his issues with the officiating. And the “do as I say, not as I do” approach isn’t a good one to use when teaching any pupil, be it a small child or a college athlete.
Next up for Illinois is a game against No. 17 Ohio State Thursday night in Columbus, with both teams in need of a win to turn things around. The Buckeyes have lost four straight as well, and like the Fighting Illini offensive struggles have played a role in the lack of success.
Illinois has shot no better than 38.5% (against Purdue) in any of its last four games while Ohio State’s best offensive performance came in their home loss to Iowa, as the Buckeyes managed to shoot 44.6% from the field. Ohio State, who doesn’t have the marquee scorer that last season’s group possessed (Deshaun Thomas), has also allowed each of its last four opponents to shoot 45.6% or better from the field with both Minnesota and Nebraska shooting at least 50%.
While the matchup represents opportunity for both teams it will also be a challenge, especially for an Illinois program that has lost its last four games in Columbus (last win: 2009).