Indiana returned to action on Thursday night after a prolonged holiday break. Despite the rest, their habits from 2018 remain fully intact.
But so are the Hoosiers’ winning ways.
IU is on a seven game winning streak, marking their longest such run since the 2015-16 season when they reeled off 12 in a row on their way to an outright Big Ten title. The Hoosiers are also 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first team since that season.
Yet another slow start resulted in a 25-15 first half deficit against Illinois. The Hoosiers are no stranger to slow starts, trailing by at least five points in each of their last eight wins.
But once again, IU found a way as it improved to 12-2 overall and 3-0 in league play.
Indiana will return to action on Sunday at 4:30 Eastern at Michigan.
One of our keys to the game was not allowing Illinois to believe they could pull the upset. The Illini certainly had the confident swagger of a team looking to pull off a road upset as they ran out to their 10 point first half lead.
There will be games, and they start on Sunday, where IU will be unlikely to survive such an early deficit.
Against Illinois, the Hoosiers had a resounding response with a late first half run that extended into the second session.
Over the final 6:53 of the first half, the Hoosiers outscored Illinois 17-7 to end the half tied at 32.
Indiana then held Illinois scoreless for the first 4:39 minutes of the second half, out-scoring the Illini 8-0 during that stretch.
It was by no means perfect, but playing without their starting point guard against a good defensive team, you take what you can get and move on. According to Archie Miller, IU will likely be without Rob Phinisee once again on Sunday.
Miller attributed the early deficit to a stagnant offense, saying this after the game:
“Yeah, I think a lot of it has to do again with offense. Your offense has got — we got some good shots early and the game just didn’t make them. When you’re playing against good teams, the score, you’re not going to shut them out. You’ve got to score too.”
With Phinisee sidelined, Miller made multiple adjustments with Romeo Langford. First, Indiana asked Langford to handle the ball more than he has thus far. Second, the second year Hoosier head coach asked Langford to be more aggressive off the dribble to take advantage of Illinois’ desire to get out into passing lanes.
The Hoosiers may have also caught a break. We had expected Illinois to play a lot of full court defense with Phinisee out. That didn’t happen, and IU was able to limit their turnovers to 15, which is a good number against the Illini.
IU was down from their season average from the field, shooting 47.9%, but the game may have been won at the foul line. IU got 35 attempts, and was able to make a good but not great 25 of them, for 71.4%.
Illinois was able to score early as IU had lapses on its help side, but the Hoosier defense turned this game around.
IU forced 21 Illinois turnovers, scoring 22 points of those miscues. The Hoosiers set a program record with six shot clock violations forced against Illinois. Of course part of the reason for that kind of record is an increasingly shorter shot clock, but Indiana made it very difficult for Illinois to get into any kind of rhythm.
Miller summed up the effort this way:
“We got better defensively in the first half which allowed us to sort of creep back in, our defense was a big key for the halftime score being what it was.
We have a better way about us and understanding how you have to not give up easy baskets.
We’re right there. We’re right there where we can take another jump though, I think, as well. The big thing is our guys understand how hard you have to play defensively if you want to be any good.”
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and players post-game
- Brad Underwood post-game
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Juwan Morgan* (A-) On the heels of his triple double, Morgan produced the 15th double double of his career, and added 4 steals on the night. Another solid game for a guy that rarely has an off night at this point.
- Justin Smith* (B) Smith had a nice stretch late in the first half with offensive rebounds and an assist as the Hoosiers fought back. There were flashes in the game of a guy that is getting more aggressive on the glass. He added 3 blocks, but was loose with the ball on several occasions.
- Romeo Langford* (A) Every game Langford shows us something different. He handled the ball against pressure defense much better than we expected. Miller told Langford to be more aggressive, and to that Langford said “that’s just what I did.” He did it in the form of a career high 28 points.
- Al Durham* (B) Foul trouble limited Durham on the night. The sophomore guard ended a late Illinois 8-0 run with a pair of clutch free throws.
- Devonte Green* (B) Green had to pull double duty, guarding Trent Frazier and handling the ball against the Illinois pressure. His defense on Frazier was excellent, holding him to 5 points under his average. On offense, Green struggled with his shot and committed 4 turnovers, with a couple coming during Illinois’ late push.
- Zach McRoberts (B+) Zach is back. Struggling all year with back pain, McRoberts looked like himself on Thursday night. His energy level was noticeably different, and he ended up with 4 steals on the night. The next step is to produce on the offensive end.
- De’Ron Davis (B) Davis managed to injure his foot or ankle, score two big baskets, get a rebound, assist and a steal, and commit two fouls all in just 5 minutes. You certainly noticed him.
- Evan Fitzner (B-) It was a quiet six minutes of action in a game that didn’t seem well suited for his style of play.
- Damezi Anderon (B-) Anderson logged a couple minutes in the contest.
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