Bob Knight used to say that the first five minutes of the second half were the most important part of the game.
Often, we've seen the Hoosiers look flat at the beginning of second halves this season. But tonight, Indiana took control of the game to start the second half and never looked back. And after five minutes, the Hoosiers already had a 12-point lead, despite being down 28-27 at halftime.
Illinois started the game out by leading 14-4, as Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 8 quick points. But while Indiana quickly got themselves back into the game, they could never pull away in the first half, and a late three by Kendrick Nunn put the Illini ahead by one going into halftime. During the second half, Indiana score a ridiculous 1.62 points per possession, and the shots that weren't falling from Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft in the first half seemed to go down with ease. Indiana ended with 13 three-pointers, despite only hitting three in the first half. Ferrell ended with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, a performance that may have put himself back into contention for B1G Player of the Year.
While Illinois has struggled all season, the Hoosiers won with ease and with style, despite Robert Johnson being on the bench, and despite losing Troy Williams to an ankle bruise for a significant portion of the game. In addition, the defense, which has struggled in recent games, averaged an impressive 0.77 PPP, and looked to be where it was back at the beginning of conference play, thanks especially to the solid contributions tonight from Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby. Finally, the Hoosiers controlled the glass on both sides of the ball all night. IU racked up 37 total rebounds compared to Illinois' 17, and ten of those were offensive rebounds, of which Illinois only had two.
Indiana now sits at 13-3 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are now in the strange position of rooting for Purdue on Saturday, as a Boiler win at home over Maryland would mean that Indiana can CLINCH AN OUTRIGHT BIG TEN TITLE against a reeling Iowa team at Carver-Hawkeye on Tuesday night.
Think about where the Hoosiers were after the Duke loss. Now think to where they are now. It's almost unbelievable, and speaks volumes to the team's drive and determination and improvement. This has been quite a turnaround for Tom Crean and company, and with the end of the regular season, the conference tourney, and March Madness all coming up, it has a chance to get even better next month.
See you Tuesday.