Illinois coach Bruce Weber has good reason to be concerned about Chicago State.
"It's mental for us. It's six games in 11 days. With another game around the corner, you can't let up on anybody. They have a quick little zipper guard that's the second leading scorer in the country. They use a lot of high ball screens, they have a lot of quickness. We've got to come ready to play."
That little guard is 5'-8" senior David Holston. The Pontiac, Michigan native is averaging a cool 28.3 points per game while also being #2 nationally in steals with a 3.7 per game average.
"Coach is always worried, there's no doubt," Weber admits. "One thing that has bothered us early in the year is quickness with small guys. Chicago State obviously has a pretty good scorer. So we have our hands full with him. And then the other guys are very active. We've got to be ready to play."
The Cougars are just 3-4 on the year, but Weber reminds they are putting up points in bunches.
"Eighty-one against Northern Illinois, 87 against Marquette who's been in the top 20, 84 against Central Michigan. So we've got to defend them, and hopefully we'll do a better job on the boards."
Second year coach Benjy Taylor wants his players to use their quickness, and he wants to set up Holston for shots.
"They use transition whenever they can," Weber explains. "They're gonna push it and want an uptempo game. They do a lot of ball screens, and Holston's gonna do some off-the-dribble step-back threes. We're gonna have to pay attention to him. And he still gets close to 4-5 assists per game.
"He tries to make some big plays, and he does turn it over alot. He's got the ball in his hands, he's quick as a whip, he's playing with a lot of confidence and has a green light. We're gonna have to have great awareness of him at all times."
Other Chicago State starters include John Cantrell, a 6'-2" senior who averages 16.4 a game; 6'-1" guard Mike Wilson, averaging 8.3; 6'-6" senior Tawrence Walton, who adds 6.7 boards to his 8.6 points a game; and Carl Montgomery, a 6'-7" post player averaging 11.7 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Weber is even more concerned for his own team than the Cougars.
"This is a maturity week. We got through Monday, some signs of good play, but we didn't have the maturity to deliver the knockout punch to finish the game. That's where we've got to make some strides. You do it with playing solid defense and good basketball and slowly but surely taking the team's spirit out."
With so little time between games, there is little opportunity to prepare for an opponent or work on problem areas.
"It's been a tough stretch. I guess when you put it on paper, you don't realize how tough it is. Tuesday we'll prepare with an hour practice and that's it. Hopefully, we'll be a little bit better prepared at the start of the game."