Illinois Proves a Different Team at Home

Everybody likes home Big Ten games, but this is sort of ridiculous

Home court advantage is a mysterious thing. Sure, fan support is nice. That's not so mysterious. Having an entire stadium of home fans cheering for you, distracting the other team, all of it -- that makes life easier.

But what is it about shooting at home that teams seem to enjoy? Is it just a matter of familiarity? Sightlines? What explains teams' ability to shoot woefully on the road in consecutive games, but then to head home and have their shooting woes immediately recovered?

The best example of this phenomenon in the Big Ten is Illinois, who went to Minnesota on Jan. 29 and shot 29.4 percent in an ugly-doesn't-really-describe-it 59-36 loss. A few days later, Illinois returned home to play Iowa and shot 47.9 percent in a ho-hum win. Then, at Wisconsin, the Illini were back to the clangy ways, shooting 32.8 percent in a loss. And last night, hosting Purdue -- by far the best team of Illinois' recent stretch -- the Illini regained their usual form, shooting 44 percent while using their typically stingy defense to keep Purdue's own shooting woefully low. And Illinois won.

Sure, Robbie Hummel was missing from the Boilermaker lineup, but it still begs the question: Are the Illini really that much better at home? Is this an aberration or a trend? And for a team with so much riding on every jump shot -- and which doesn't grab as many offensive rebounds as it could -- is it a sign of road-game trouble in the future?

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