By Anthony Weihofen
Losing two games in a row and three out of their last four the University of Illinois Fighting Illini have been falling off the map in NCAA basketball. Though one part of their game can save them from one of their worst losing streaks in quite some time.
Senior guard Brandon Paul of the Fighting Illini is one of the most improved players over the past four years and could looking at a career in the NBA. He is currently averaging 18-points per game and has one of the most accurate shots of anyone in his age group. He has made 41-percent of his shots from the field and 36-percent from deep in three-point territory.
He also makes his opponents regret every foul and be extra cautious of their approach to playing aggressive defense on him with his almost 73-percent free-throw shooting percentage.
A player with such high statistics and in his last year of playing college basketball this struggling slump for the University of Illinois has got to be frustrating him beyond belief.
All three of the Illini’s recent losses were to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue. All of which are also in the Big Ten Conference and has dropped the Illini to 1-3 in the Big Ten and tied for eighth place. The previously ranked 12th Illini also dropped to 23rd at 14-4 overall.
Paul who is hitting career-highs in almost every category is also coming off his worst game of the season in the team’s recent 17-point loss to Wisconsin. He scored only eight points and was a horrendous 1-11 shooting from the field. It was his first game shooting under 25-percent and only his third time under 30-percent.
He’s a star player who can shoot the ball really well but was also real good at making other players on his team look like studs shooting the ball as well until recently. In his first 16 games of the season he was averaging 3.5 assists per game and the Illini were 14-2. In his last two games that were critical losses to fellow Big Ten teams Paul tallied a total zero assists.
Paul knows he can shoot, his school knows he can shoot and every opponent that gets ready to tip-off against the boys from Champagne, Illinois knows he can shoot. In other words everyone is looking for Paul to take his share of shooting opportunities, but with his ability to rack up assists through setting up other players always leaves opponents on their toes.
With the Illini’s next game coming home against the Northwestern Wildcats the University of Illinois hopes to bounce back on track. The Wildcats are one of the three teams tied with the Illini at 1-3 in the Big Ten Conference and a loss here could really be troublesome. Despite Paul’s last game being a flop he is sill one of the hottest shooters in the league and can and will be the only reason this team will likely still finish the season somewhat strong.