Even with a sparkling 11-1 record, No. 24 Illinois has been struggling lately. The Illini were embarrassed in front of a raucous Chicago crowd against UNLV last week, and just barely snuck by Cornell on Monday. Thursday night's game against Missouri offers the perfect opportunity for Bruce Weber's crew to get back on the right track. The annual matchup with the Tigers is traditionally one of the most anticipated games each year, and Missouri's lofty ranking (entering the game at No. 8) and spotless record (11-0) only raises the stakes this season.
Illinois will have their work cut out for them. Mizzou has been a force as of late, averaging 87.9 points per game while only giving up 60.2. To put that in perspective, the Illini are averaging 69 points per game.
Weber knows how important this game is to his team:
"I don't know if there can be a better game in the country," Weber said. "There are some great rivalries, but to have an individual game like this, it's one of a kind.
"It will be interesting to see how our young guys deal with it."
Tip-off time is 8:00 p.m. central at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.