The Hoosiers got off the conference schneid with a big win over Illinois. Here's three observations:
Indiana got off to a fast start, and Illinois never recovered.
A common theme from the three-game skid for Indiana was each game containing a slow start from Indiana that they seemed to be playing catch-up to for a lot of the game. This evening, Indiana raced out to a 15-0 lead, holding Illinois scoreless for nearly ten minutes to start the game and forced the visitors to spend the rest of the game slowly chipping away at it. Even an improved effort in the second half wasn't enough to bring the Illini all the way back.
The refs [whistle] were [whistle] sim-[whistle]ply absurd [whistle] tonight. [technical]
The flow and watchability of the second half was completely ruined by refs who decided to whistle nearly every instance of contact they could, showing particular enthusiasm to whistle guys for charges any time they attempted a layup. The freedom of movement emphasis has largely been great for the sport, tonight was a gross misunderstanding of what that means.
The Hoosiers' effort in the second half was abysmal, unacceptable, embarrassing, whatever word you want to use.
I don't know if the players expected Illinois to just roll over and take the loss or what, but for as good as the first half was, Indiana played with zero heart or effort in the second half, and gave up easy look after easy look, allowing the visitors to cut the lead to single digits after ballooning to 20+ multiple times. Credit Illinois for playing their hearts out and getting the game back within striking distance but my god, Indiana, what achievements this year have lead you to believe that anything less than your best effort (particularly on defense) is going to get you smoked.
Thankfully, the Hoosiers came up with a string of clutch buckets every time they needed them, which also illuminates how many warts hot shooting can cover. Nevertheless, the defensive intensity that the team demonstrated in the first half can carry them to victories on the nights the shots don't fall, which is happening a lot more this year than last.
Indiana heads out on the road for the first time in conference playing. They'll face Maryland on Tuesday.