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Three Things We Learned: Illinois

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That was quite a sports contest.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana earned a tough road win over rival Illinois, let's get to the learnings!

  • James Blackmon Jr. is back, baby. He missed his first two three-point shots and it looked like it was going to be another night of bricks for the Indiana freshman but he would go 7-10 on his other shots, including 4/4 from distance and 3-3 from the free throw line on his way to 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. All that in conjunction with some excellent fundamental defense late, forcing tough shots and gumming up the works in the backcourt as Illinois tried to get the ball into the hands of their white-hot shooters.
  • This effort, man. The biggest difference from last year, next to the shooting, is just the all-out effort these guys give night-in, night-out. Whether it's on the glass or saving balls out of bounds, these guys are hustling and the returns are often positive. Troy Williams, in particular, has certainly made the leap in quality that many have hoped for him, largely because of how well he does the un-sexy things about basketball: moving without the ball, crashing the glass, and hitting the deck.
  • This team is still far too good at letting big leads slip. Indiana led by double digits in both halves and both leads seemed to evaporate almost instantaneously once Illinois started to fight back. The offense stopped moving and devolved into the kind of 1-on-1 bad basketball that plagued this team all last season. As the offensive focused slipped, so did the defense, and things snowballed from their. But you can't say they aren't resilient, as they eventually refocused and made enough shots and got enough stops to claw back in. The next step is to build a big lead and keep building it, as opposed to letting it slip away.