Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Illinois
Indiana improved to 12-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten with an 80-65 win against Illinois on Thursday at the State Farm Center.
Here are five takeaways from the win against the Illini:
Defensive resurgence continues
After three porous defensive efforts against Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State, Indiana has now held two straight Big Ten opponents under a point per possession.
Indiana smothered Wisconsin on Jan. 14, holding the Badgers to only 45 points and .717 points per possession.
Thursday’s performance against Illinois wasn’t as dominant, but it was arguably more impressive under the circumstances.
In a hostile State Farm Center that had circled the matchup on the calendar, the Hoosiers limited the Illini to 65 points and .948 points per possession. Indiana held Illinois to 13-for-32 shooting on 2s (40.6 percent).
Illinois came into Thursday on a four-game winning streak and with 75 or more points in each of those victories. But Indiana came out focused and connected defensively for the second straight game. It’s a trend that Mike Woodson needs his team to continue to fully dig out of the hole created by a 1-4 start in Big Ten play.
Illinois chooses not to double Trayce Jackson-Davis and pays the price
The surprising decision by Brad Underwood to play Trayce Jackson-Davis straight up allowed IU’s lefty All-American to get rolling early in the first half.
And once Jackson-Davis started to score, he never stopped.
Jackson-Davis looks more healthy and explosive than he’s been in several weeks and it showed in his performance. Against the Illini, Jackson-Davis exploded for 35 points on 15-for-19 shooting. He also shot 5-for-6 on free throws and added nine rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.
“They didn’t send the double,” Jackson-Davis said postgame. “So I had to make ‘em pay.”
Following his dominant effort on Thursday, Jackson-Davis sits 8th on Indiana’s all-time scoring list, fourth in rebounds and second in blocked shots.
Jordan Geronimo gaining confidence in starting role
It would have been an understandable and logical decision for Woodson to remove Jordan Geronimo from the starting lineup after the Northwestern and Penn State games.
But Woodson stuck with Geronimo, which has paid off in the last two games.
Geronimo went for a double-double in IU’s win over Wisconsin and followed it up with 13 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots and an assist in 30 minutes in Thursday’s win against Illinois.
The 6-foot-6 forward shot 6-for-8 from the field is becoming more confident in his role with Race Thompson sidelined with a knee injury.
Geronimo did commit a season-high four turnovers on Thursday, but his knack for being in the right spot to catch passes and finish plays at the rim was instrumental in the victory.
Hoosiers crush the Illini in the paint
Entering Thursday’s game, Illinois had one of the Big Ten’s best defensive 2-point field goal percentages in the league.
Conference foes were shooting just 44.5 percent on 2s against the Illini.
Indiana shot a sizzling 67.4 percent on 2s in Thursday’s win. A lot of that was the 15-for-19 performance by Jackson-Davis, but Trey Galloway and Geronimo combined to shoot 8-for-9 on 2s.
Illinois blocked just two shots and its lack of a presence at the rim allowed the Hoosiers to finish easily for most of the game.
For the game, Indiana outscored Illinois 54-32 in the paint. Indiana’s dominance around the basket allowed the Hoosiers to win easily despite shooting only 3-for-9 on 3s.
Over the last two games, IU is shooting just 4-for-17 from the perimeter.
A tough performance for the Illini frontcourt
On paper, the Illinois frontcourt looked like a matchup problem for Indiana.
Matthew Mayer was on a roll entering the game, Dain Dainja was one of the league’s most efficient finishers in the paint and Coleman Hawkins torched the Hoosiers in last spring’s Big Ten tournament.
All three had underwhelming performances on Thursday.
Mayer, who Underwood said was sick in his postgame press conference, played 22 minutes and didn’t score. Mayer attempted four shots and only had two rebounds.
Dainja was repeatedly beaten one-on-one by Jackson-Davis. He did score nine points but was only 4-for-8 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line.
Hawkins, who connected on four 3s against Indiana in the Big Ten tournament in March, went just 1-for-4 from the perimeter.
Poor free throw shooting also was a factor for Illinois. The Illini shot only 9-for-23 from the line. Illinois shot 10 more free throws than Indiana, but the two teams both scored only nine points from the stripe.
(Photo credit: IU Athletics)