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Illinois Basketball: Underwood Prepared for Season Finale



Illinois Basketball: Underwood Prepared for Season Finale
Credit: Joseph Cress - Iowa City Press - USA TODAY

Illinois Basketball: Underwood Prepared for Season Finale

Illinois Basketball is set to round out the remainder of their 2024 schedule on the road at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. On February 24th, the Fighting Illini were able to come out on top vs the Hawkeyes 95-85, in an offensive shootout in Champaign. Coleman Hawkins highlighted the night with 30 points, shooting 9 for 11. One of the better overall performances of his collegiate career. Iowa Guard Josh Dix had a very nice performance himself against the orange and blue, knocking down 9-15 from the floor, for 20 points. However, it was not enough to take down the Illini. Of course, there was plenty of pressure to get this one closed, after dropping a massive loss to Penn State days before.

Fast forward to the big finale vs Iowa on March 10th, and the Illini are yet again coming off a big loss. This time, to Matt Painter and the conference champion Purdue Boilermakers. The Illini displayed a valiant effort but fell short 77-71 in Champaign. “Coming off a very tough and emotional senior night,” says Underwood. “Obviously, the outcome isn’t what we wanted. Didn’t think we played particularly well. I watched the film, and I give Purdue credit.  Obviously, Zac (Edey) is very good, but we didn’t make enough plays. We didn’t make enough winning plays.” said the Illini headman in his pre-Iowa media availability. “When you’ve got the game tied at home with two minutes, and you’re at home, you need to win those games.”.

Underwood’s Thoughts on Iowa

“It’s Illinois Iowa, it’s always a heck of a battle,” says Brad Underwood as he prepares Illinois Basketball to take on the Hawkeyes. “The game here was all of that.” The Illini coach states, recalling the offensive firework show that went down in Champaign on 2/24. A matchup where the offense for Illinois was very good, but defense was nearly non existent for the better part of 35 mins of the game. “Again, a where I did not think we played very well.” quoted Brad. Underwood, a defensive minded coach, knows this Illini team needs to be more productive on that end of the floor. “Their perimeter guys are extremely good. Dix hurt us in the first game. (Payton) Sanfordt is coming off of a triple-double (26-10-10 vs PSU). Perkins is turning into another one of the great guards that we have faced in the league night in and night out.” says coach.  “They play fast, high scoring, they mix up their defenses, it a typical Iowa team, and we are gonna have to play one.”


Illinois Basketball faced their share of the typical ups and downs of a full regular season. Certainly, the Fighting Illini are a great team, and yet again, finishing top 2 in the toughest conference in Basketball. Winning it all is the goal, but there are bigger dreams in mind now for Brad, and his veteran led team. After coming off a tough, but well fought loss, Iowa now stands as the last domino to fall for Illinois.


“Urgency” was the word of the day in Underwood’s media availability. You still have to get through these tough Hawkeyes, but now, the margin for error is quickly becoming paper thin. One and done will be the rules from then on, and this team must be consistent. Illinois is a very interesting group of transfers and veterans, that has had to weather a lot of storms through 2023-24. When asked about some of the veterans and their feelings towards these upcoming games, Underwood insisted upon urgency.

“This group of guys came here because they wanted to be in the NCAA tournament. They wanted the opportunity to be on that stage,  Quincy is the only one that’s done that. And, that was with Syracuse a long time ago. So, I think there’s urgency there, I think there is understanding there.” says Underwood. “My point being, after the Purdue game, its one possession, you know? Every game is gonna be like that.” quoted the Illini coach. “We didn’t get a defensive rebound. The Jones kid made a bad play on their part, and they deflect a pass that we don’t come up with. Those two plays, send you home. That, is the urgency this group has to Understand.” Says Underwood. “We’ve gotta find a way to win those games.

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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.