This is not how the University of Illinois planned on starting their basketball season. The Illini, who had already been upset by North Florida and Chattanooga, needed a last second bucket to avoid a shocking in-state loss to Chicago State.
The Chicago State Cougars, who play in the Western Athletic Conference, had a double digit lead for a long stretch through the second half. It wasn’t until there were less than two minutes left in the game that Illinois took their first lead since going up 17-15 in the first half.
Chicago State had a chance to put the game away, but two turnovers with less than a minute to go kept the Illini alive. After an inadvertent whistle prevented an Illini fast break, they took the ball from out of bounds with just over four seconds left.
On the final play of the game, the Illini found Jalen Coleman-Lands in the corner for an open look for three.
While the Illini avoid the embarrassing loss, the win won’t do much to help the confidence of team supporters. Chicago State won only eight games last season and lost last week to Iowa State by 42 points.
The poor start to the season comes at a time when Illinois athletics are in a complete turnover. While already looking for a new football coach and athletic director, an embarrassing season would put basketball coach John Groce squarely on the hot seat.