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Three Things: Illinois 75, Indiana 71

That felt like a gigantic waste of time

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

It was billed as a basketball game, but Tuesday’s Indiana-Illinois game instead presented itself as a three-hour fart.

And after 54 combined fouls, three periods and a series of painfully long scoring droughts, the same general theme emerged for this IU basketball team: it’s just not very good. No. 12 Illinois came to Bloomington and kindly tried to give IU its second ranked win of the season, but the Hoosiers refused to accept it, settling instead for a 75-71 overtime loss at Assembly Hall.

Here are Three Things:

Once again, Indiana can’t finish

That’s just kind of what these Hoosiers do. Or don’t do. Whatever. They’ve now lost three of the four overtime games they’ve played this season, the latest a squandered opportunity to pad their postseason resume. I know, I know. It feels forced and futile to think about an NCAA Tournament bid right now. It sure doesn’t look like a team worthy of such an invitation, and if they keep playing like ~that~ this month, it won’t even be a discussion.

Lapses on both ends, missed free throws, mistakes in the worst moments, relative silence in the backcourt — there’s a long list of things you could focus on, none of them new. It all boils down to the lack of consistent and reliable execution in the big moments, and the quiet ones, too. That’s why Indiana is now 4-6 in the conference, with four of those losses coming on its home court.

Of those four local defeats, this one ought to sting as much as the Purdue game — if not more so. This was an extremely winnable game, what with Ayo Dosunmu fouling out with less than three minutes to play in regulation, Illinois stumbling through its own offensive issues and Indiana working with the double bonus from the 11-minute mark on.

And yet.

Choppy game? That doesn’t even begin to describe it.

This was hard to watch. At times, it was painful — and it wasn’t even entirely Indiana’s fault! Can you imagine if the folks at the combination Fogo de Chao/Big Ten offices felt even the slightest amount of shame over the way they have allowed their officials to operate for years? Can you imagine that? The crew of Rob Riley, Lewis Garrison and Kelly Pfeifer called the stinker of the century, whistling 47 fouls in regulation and another seven in overtime. If those three aren’t on the phone with Big Ten officiating czar Rick Boyages first thing Wednesday morning, it will be an injustice.

But the two teams didn’t do much themselves to make this any easier on the eyes — there were more combined fouls in regulation than combined field goals in 45 minutes (44). Incompetent officiating coupled with a case of contagious Archieball is just a bad, bad, bad combination, brother.

Indiana’s two games against Illinois this season have been tutorials in how to run regressive, self-defeating offense. Over the final 25 minutes, IU had more turnovers (11) than made field goals (eight). The Hoosiers went more than five minutes without making a shot from the floor during the second half, and they combined with the Illini to miss 12 straight looks across one particularly forgettable stretch after halftime. And while getting into the bonus so soon could’ve been advantageous, Indiana shot only 61% from the free throw line during the second half and overtime. This, after all, is Archie Miller’s Indiana we’re talking about.

The four-freshman look

When Miller turned to a lineup consisting of Race Thompson and four freshmen — Anthony Leal, Trey Galloway, Khristian Lander and Jordan Geronimo — midway through the first half, it felt like an opportunity for Illinois to make a run. Instead, the new-look group of five held its own. And then some. IU’s four-freshman lineup outscored Illinois 5-3 during its time on the floor. The scoring — Thompson had three points and Geronimo had two during that stretch — was nice, but it was everything else the unit did to give IU a presence on both ends of the court. In that three-minute block, we saw:

  • Lander record an assist and a defensive rebound
  • Geronimo add two boards
  • Galloway tally an assist
  • Leal grab a rebound

The steady play from the freshman class didn’t end there, either. Lander, with his confidence seemingly rejuvenated, stepped into a 3-point look and drained it with just under a minute left before the break. Defensively, it’s still very much a work in progress for Lander, but *insert shrug emoji*. Isn’t it for everyone at this point?