Five takeaways from Indiana’s loss to Illinois

  • 01/27/2024 7:13 pm in

Indiana dropped its third straight game, falling 70-62 to Illinois on Saturday afternoon at the State Farm Center.

Here are five takeaways from the loss to the Fighting Illini:

Indiana goes with a smaller lineup with Kel’el Ware out

Mike Woodson stayed consistent with a two-big lineup when Kel’el Ware missed games against Kennesaw State and Wisconsin but changed things up against Illinois.

With Ware sidelined for a second straight game, Woodson inserted Anthony Walker into the starting lineup rather than starting Payton Sparks.

It was an adjustment that allowed Indiana to switch more and it was a much improved defensive performance over the last two games.

After allowing 1.225 points per possession against Purdue and 1.40 against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers held the Fighting Illini to 1.03 points per trip.

Illinois finished with its lowest effective field goal percentage (42.7) since its loss to Tennessee on Dec. 9. IU’s defense performance kept them in the game all afternoon.

“I thought defensively, we played a great defensive game,” Woodson said postgame. “But when you’re on the road, you’ve got to do almost everything right to come out with the win.”

Woodson also utilized a shorter rotation, playing all his starters over 30 minutes. Only two subs – Gabe Cupps and Anthony Leal – logged significant time off the bench.

Hoosiers don’t make a 3-pointer for the first time in more than 13 years

For the first time since a 78-46 home loss to Wisconsin on Feb. 25, 2010, Indiana failed to make a 3-pointer in Saturday’s loss.

The Hoosiers only attempted two 3-pointers in the first half and then missed seven more in the second half to finish 0-for-9.

It’s no secret that Indiana hasn’t prioritized the 3-point shot under Woodson. The nine attempts matched Indiana’s season-low output of attempts from wins against Maryland and Michigan in December.

In the latest numbers available on, Indiana is getting just 20.4 percent of its points from 3-pointers. That figure ranks the program in the bottom 15 nationally.

Only 27 percent of IU’s field goal attempts are 3s, which also ranks in the bottom 15 nationally, per

Poor free throw shooting proves costly

Indiana has little margin for error and compounded its non-existent perimeter game with a poor effort from the free throw line.

The Hoosiers got to the line 22 times for a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 40.7, well above the average for Illinois opponents this season. The Illini had been allowing an opponent free throw rate of just 22.5 percent this season entering the game, ninth best in the country.

But Indiana didn’t take advantage at the line.

The Hoosiers shot just 12-for-22 (54.5 percent) and are now shooting 65.9 percent from the line this season, which is bottom 40 nationally.

“That was the difference,” Woodson said. “Close games on the road, anywhere, you gotta make free throws. We were 12-for-22, so that was not good for our ball club. And we missed them at critical times when we needed them.”

Malik Reneau continues to shine in the post

Malik Reneau’s breakout sophomore season continued on Saturday afternoon.

The Miami, Florida native scored a game-high 21 points on an efficient 8-for-12 shooting performance.

The 6-foot-9 forward did miss four free throws, but his effectiveness as a post scorer fueled the IU offense. He also had seven rebounds in 34 minutes.

“Malik’s been solid, man,” Woodson said postgame. “What can you say? He’s a sophomore that’s starting to figure it out. He’s improved the time he came in here as a freshman. I can’t help but think he’ll continue to grow if he continues to work, which he does. I’m pleased with Malik.”

Unfortunately for Indiana, Reneau battled foul trouble in Saturday’s loss and he fouled out with the Hoosiers trailing 58-56 at the 3:01 mark. Reneau has done a much better job of defending without fouling in his second season and this was just the second time he’s fouled out in 20 games.

Indiana exhibited a much better effort despite the loss

There’s no doubt Indiana’s losses to Purdue and Wisconsin were two of the program’s worst performances of the season thus far.

Woodson said earlier in the week that the Hoosiers needed to do some soul-searching this past week with the extended time off between the loss at the Kohl Center and the trip to the State Farm Center.

Indiana was far more competitive in Saturday’s game than its previous two losses, a sign that the Hoosiers are still fighting despite falling below .500 in conference play with the loss.

“Listen, I’m about winning, man,” Woodson explained postgame. “I want to win at all costs. But again, when you go through a Purdue game like we play and Wisconsin where we played in spurts… I thought we were solid all the way through. We just didn’t make the plays coming down the stretch.”

Throughout his tenure in Bloomington, Woodson’s teams have responded to adversity. With two home games next week, the Hoosiers will have to carry over the effort from Saturday to get back in the win column beginning Tuesday against Iowa.

(Photo credit: IU Athletics)

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