I haven't compared the box scores side by side, but the feel of IU'a 80-64 win over Illinois in Chicago this afternoon was quite similar to that of IU's loss in Champaign. IU pulled ahead early, but never quite put the game away in the first 35 minutes. As the Hoosiers' lead bounced between 8, 10, and 12 points, it was impossible to avoid thinking that IU was allowing the Illini to stick around again. Fortunately, the final five minutes of today's game were the opposite of the regular season game. Indiana opened up a 20 point lead and eventually coasted home, 80-64.
The first half, despite IU's 14 point lead, felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. IU played excellent defense, and the Illini didn't do much with the few open looks that they found. Still, IU shot only 44 percent from the field and 1-8 from three point range, so what could have been a full scale beatdown remained a contested game. IU turned the ball over 11 times in the first half (this is from memory--I can't find a detailed box score yet). IU finished with only 14, so IU's better ball handling plus 65 percent shooting in the second half proved too much for the Illini. IU made up for the turnovers by dominating the boards. IU had 11 offensive rebounds to Illinois's 13 defensive boards, while the Hoosiers had 27 defensive rebounds to 13 offensive boards for the Illini. The streaky but dangerous Brandon Paul, who beat Minnesota with a buzzer beater yesterday, was held to 2-13 shooting (although he was 11-12 from the line).The entire Illini starting lineup had 12 rebounds, just one more than Victor Oladipo had on his own.
Individual performances of note:
- Cody Zeller was at his best scoring 24 points on 9-11/6-6 shooting and adding 9 boards. He did have four turnovers, but otherwise showed exactly what IU needs from him over the next however many weeks.
- Victor Oladipo had 12 points and 11 boards, and his 360 dunk will be discussed for a while, and certainly will be ubiquitous on ESPN tonight.
- Jordan Hulls missed some wide open threes and finished 0-5 from the field, but he had 7 assists and no turnovers.
- Will Sheehey was great off the bench, scoring 11 points on 4-4 shooting.
Today's win is a milestone in a number of ways. Tomorrow will be IU's first appearance in the BTT semifinals since 2006 and only their fifth in the 16-year history of the event. This is the eighth Big Ten Tournament held in Chicago, and this is the first time that anyone has knocked Illinois before the weekend. Illinois became the tenth Big Ten team to lose to IU this season. If the Hoosiers can beat Wisconsin tomorrow, then for the first time in 20 years IU will have defeated every conference team at least once. It should be fun. Well, no it won't be. We'll be playing Wisconsin, so it will be ugly win or lose. But I'm glad IU gets another shot at the Badgers.