Indiana came up just short of capturing a quadrant one victory to further cement their case to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoosiers fell by a score of 67-66 to the Fighting Illini at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois in what was a tightly contested game throughout on Sunday afternoon.
Neither team led by more than seven points and Indiana had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the closing seconds, trailing 65-63 with the ball.
After Trayce Jackson-Davis rebounded his own missed free throw with 11 seconds remaining, he kicked the ball the ball out to Rob Phinisee who appeared to trip and turned the ball over to Illinois. Fighting Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu hit two free throws to put the game out of reach before Phinisee hit a meaningless three-pointer at the buzzer.
IU head coach Archie Miller was asked whether Phinisee was tripped in the final possession but he said he was unable to see what happened.
The Hoosiers got several defensive stops late to put them in that position late.
“At the end of the day, to get the two to three stops when we really needed them to have a chance to win, we did that,” Miller said.
After scoring only 49 points at Purdue on Thursday night, Indiana scored 36 in the first 20 minutes of action on Sunday. As to why they were more effective, it is no surprise to those that have watched IU all season long.
Indiana attacked in transition and threw the ball inside and played from the inside-out. Of their 36 points in the opening frame, 18 were from the paint. Leading the charge for the Hoosiers was freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.
Illinois was able to slow down Jackson-Davis in the second half, and their own freshman big man was strong after the break.
Freshman Kofi Cockburn has 12 points including a 6-of-6 performance at the foul line in the second half.
“They went inside like most teams do against us. Big Kofi was tough for us around the rim. He got some free throws and, to his credit he made them,” Miller said.
Illinois had a 17-10 edge in made free throws, and for Miller that was a decisive factor in the outcome. “That was pretty much the difference in the game, getting to the line and making them,” he said.
Despite the disappointing loss, Miller believes his team is giving good effort, and executed better than they did at Purdue.
Now the Hoosiers will try to finish the season with two wins at home to lock in their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016.
“We finish at Assembly Hall and we need that place to be a home-court advantage, Miller said.
“If play hard as we have, and play with a little bit more discipline and smarter, hopefully we have the advantage, which is what we will need.”
Inside The Numbers:
Four players were in double figures for Indiana. Al Durham led IU with 13 points, Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12, Devonte Green had 11 off the bench, and Rob Phinisee had 10. Jackson-Davis was IU’s leading rebounder with 12.
IU won the rebounding battle 39-31, including a 12-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
For the game, Indiana was 24-of-59, or 40.7 percent, from the field including 8-of-16, or 50 percent, from three-point range.
The Hoosiers were 10-of-12, or 83.3 percent, from the foul line.
IU had 12 assists compared to 10 turnovers, while Illinois had nine assists and seven turnovers.
“For us to be plus-8 on the glass and only turn the ball over 10 times is a recipe for success,” Miller said. “If we stick to that, we can find ways to win a lot more games.”
Ayo Dosunmu led the Fighting Illini with 17 points.
Indiana (18-11, 8-10) returns home to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten conference matchup. The game tips off at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 4.
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