On Sunday, their emotional leader in Tracy Abrams went out with back spasms just as their chief scorer returned to form.
Abrams scored two points in only 13 minutes, both season lows.
"He wants to go obviously, but I played that game before when Ray was injured a little bit in the previous game," Coach John Groce said. "I kind of made up my mind that Iw as going to play healthy guys."
Abrams spent time prior to the game with Illinois trainer Paul Schmidt. The past, Schmidt has been able to get Abrams prepared.
"He's had it throughout the year a little bit here and there in practices and a little bit in some games, but he's been able to snap out of it," Groce said.
"(Schmidt) wasn't quite able to get it feeling good as he had normally when we ran into that issue before."
Once the game started, it was clear the junior guard wasn't playing at his usual level. He checked out early in the game and initially declined Schmidt's gesture to go back to the locker room. Another quick stint on the floor ended with Abrams exiting and following Schmidt to get treatment.
Abrams returned once more, but had to sit at the scorer's table before checking in. He had a hard time standing up after the extended rest and it was obvious through his play he was unlikely to return to form. He went back to the locker room once more and played only six more minutes the rest of the way.
Illinois plays again Saturday against Iowa, giving everybody, especially Rice and Abrams time to mend.
"We've got some time off here. It gives us a chance to regroup," Groce said.