CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Indiana moved another step closer to a Big Ten regular season title on Thursday night as the Hoosiers crushed Illinois, 74-47, at the State Farm Center.
It was the third straight win for the Hoosiers and 13th in conference play. A win on Tuesday in Iowa would clinch at least a share of the regular season title.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Fighting Illini:
· Ferrell puts his stamp on the game in second half: For 20 minutes, it looked like Indiana had a fight on its hands against Illinois. The Hoosiers offense was sputtering and its defense didn’t start out well either as the Illini jumped out to a 14-4 lead.
But Indiana’s senior point guard and leader, Yogi Ferrell, was not going to be denied in a game the Hoosiers needed to have. Ferrell locked up Kendrick Nunn defensively in the second half and held him to two points. And offensively, Ferrell couldn’t be stopped by anyone on Illinois.
The first half at the State Farm Center was one to forget. Not only did the Illini assert their gameplan on Indiana and bust out to a 14-4 lead as the Hoosiers struggled on both sides of the ball, but it was also an ugly half of basketball.
The Hoosiers turned it over 25 percent of their possessions. They shot just 3-of-15 from 3-point distance and scored only .84 points per possession. Nick Zeisloft, starting in place of the injured Robert Johnson, had some issues passing into the post and racked up three turnovers. But despite all that, Indiana trailed by just one point at half (28-27), as the Illini had some turnovers issues (21.9%) of their own after a hot start.
On Indiana’s first possession of the second half, it went to Thomas Bryant in the post for a bucket. That possession was the start of the Hoosiers seizing control of the contest and leaving Illinois for dead. From there, Indiana cruised to a 27-point victory by outscoring the Illini by a ridiculous 47-19 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Quick thoughts on Indiana’s 74-47 win over Illinois:
How it happened: After a shaky first half in which Indiana trailed 28-27 Illinois at intermission, the Hoosiers offense kicked it into high gear in the second 20 minutes. Indiana managed just .84 points per possession in the first half, but exploded from the perimeter in the second half. The Hoosiers connected on 15-of-26 shots after half and simply bludgeoned the helpless Illini. Yogi Ferrell (27 points), Thomas Bryant (14) and Nick Zeisloft (14) were all terrific offensively as the Hoosiers moved to 23-6 overall and 13-3 in the Big Ten. One more win will clinch at least a share of the conference title for Indiana.
In order to stay one game in front of the race for the Big Ten regular season title, Indiana must beat Illinois tonight on the road. And even though the Hoosiers clobbered the Fighting Illini 103-69 in Assembly Hall, don’t expect it to be an easy task.
This time, IU will likely be without guard Robert Johnson, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle. His potential absence could mean increased roles for Nick Zeisloft and Harrison Niego along with more backcourt minutes for Troy Williams.
After starting Big Ten play 3-0 on the road, Indiana has dropped three of its last four games away from Assembly Hall. Illinois (12-15, 4-10) will be looking to play the role of spoiler in IU’s quest for a conference title.
Indiana will aim for its third straight win on Thursday night as it travels to the State Farm Center to take on Illinois. The Fighting Illii are 12-15 overall and 4-10 in Big Ten games.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET with Rece Davis, Seth Greenburg and Dan Dakich on the call:
One game stands between Indiana playing for a guaranteed share of the Big Ten title on Tuesday in Iowa City: Illinois in Champaign. After starting 3-0 in Big Ten road games, the Hoosiers have dropped three of their last four away from Assembly Hall with the lone win coming at Michigan.
Injuries have made it a challenging and tumultuous fourth season for John Groce. The Illini have only beaten Rutgers (on two occasions) since a Jan. 23 win at Minnesota and two of their four league wins have come in overtime. But after a 103-69 beatdown on Jan. 19 in Bloomington, the Illini will be looking to play spoiler and avenge an embarrassing loss.
At 12-3, an Indiana win in Champaign would set the Hoosiers up for a huge Tuesday matchup in Iowa City with the Hawkeyes that would have major conference title implications. But Indiana, which could be without a key player in Robert Johnson, can’t afford to look ahead. The last ranked IU team to enter the State Farm Center, the No. 1 ranked Hoosiers in the 2012-2013 season, left with a stunning defeat. With a Big Ten title, conference tournament seeding and NCAA tournament seeding implications, every game from here on out is huge for Indiana as we enter the season’s final stretch.