Bloomington,Ind - Illinois dropped four straight on the road before a frantic last-minute comeback led to a victory in its most recent game.
It likely won't be as tough for the 22nd-ranked Fighting Illini on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Illinois -10 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 217 bets for this game have been placed on the Illinois -10.
A trip to Indiana's Assembly Hall has rarely looked as inviting as it does this season, and Illinois will try to exploit the last-place Hoosiers to win in Bloomington for the first time in more than five years.
Illinois has been a stalwart at home nearly all season, but went more than six weeks without a road win after beating then-No. 9 Purdue on Dec. 30, dropping four Big Ten road games by an average of 13.0 points.
Another loss looked imminent Thursday at Northwestern, as the Illini (20-5, 8-4) trailed by 14 with about five minutes left and nine with just over two minutes to play.
"We're just thinking, 'Here we go again. We can't get stops when we need it. We can't make the plays when we need it,'" Illinois senior guard Trent Meacham said.
But Meacham scored eight straight points, then assisted on Demetri McCamey's game-winning jumper with 2.9 seconds to play, sparking the Illini a 60-59 victory that coach Bruce Weber said he'll "definitely remember for a long time."
The win also helped cement Illinois' bid to return to the NCAA tournament after stumbling to a sub-.500 season in 2007-08.
Along with Meacham, the Illini's resurgence has been led by a trio of sophomores, with McCamey, 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale and forward Mike Davis each starting and averaging more than 10 points. McCamey had a game-high 21 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Wildcats.
Illinois also boasts the top scoring defense in the Big Ten, ranking among the top 10 nationally by allowing 56.6 points per game.
That doesn't bode well for the Hoosiers' sputtering offense, which has averaged 50.5 points in its last two games - both losses on the heels of the team's only win in two months.
Indiana (6-17, 1-10) is still reeling after the once-proud program was decimated by a recruiting scandal centered around former coach Kelvin Sampson last season, and its rebuilt roster has one win in its last 14 games - including home losses to Northeastern and Lipscomb.
The Illini may have taken special satisfaction in their 76-45 blowout of the Hoosiers on Jan. 10 considering Sampson had lured guard Eric Gordon to Bloomington after the future NBA lottery pick had verbally committed to Illinois. Meacham had 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point range.
"We didn't compete at all in the game, and (Illinois) played great," first-year Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They would've pretty much beat anybody in the country that day, but we certainly didn't help our cause. We were not competitive."
Crean started four freshmen in Tuesday night's 62-54 loss at Minnesota, two days after indefinitely suspending top scorer Devan Dumes for throwing an elbow in the previous game against Michigan State.
It's unclear if Dumes will be activated for Sunday's game.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Crean said. "I'm being evasive. I'm not trying to hold it from you. I'm not trying to play strategy games. We're just going day by day with this."
Either way, Illinois should have an outstanding chance to end a three-game losing streak in Bloomington. The Illini haven't won there since a 51-49 victory on Feb. 3, 2004, but they've still won nine of 13 overall against the Hoosiers.
Posted: 2/15/09 2:02AM ET