Illinois-Indiana: Round Two

Illinois and Indiana meet Friday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

CHICAGO - No team knew how Minnesota's players were feeling following Thursday's buzzer-beating loss at the hands of the Fighting Illini better than Indiana.

The top-seed in the Big Ten Tournament awaited the winner and watched Illinois claim the victory the same way it did against the Hoosiers in the regular season, with a last second shot capping a come-from-behind stunner.

Against the Golden Gophers, Illinois trailed by three with a minute to play. A 3 by D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul's winner pushed the team into the second round to play Indiana today at 11 a.m.

"I'm ready to keep playing this tournament," Richardson said. "I'm blessed to play against these type of teams. There's a lot of good teams in the Big Ten. We're going to treat Indiana like we treat the rest of the teams in the Big Ten, take it one game at a time."

For the Illini, the Moment Of The Season (to this point at least) occurred in the regular season against Indiana.

The Hoosiers led by as many as 14 and were better, statically speaking, in nearly every category.

But the Illini, led by D.J. Richardson's 23 points, including eight in a row in the closing minutes, tied the game with just over a minute left to play.

Tyler Griffey sealed the win, hitting a lay-up after streaking free on an inbounds play to take the win as the buzzer sounded.

After entering the Feb. 7 contest 2-7 in the Big Ten, the Illini closed out the season 6-3 to get back in the NCAA Tournament picture.

"That was the game that kind of really turned around our season," Griffey said. "We'd lost three in a row going into it and we rattled off five (wins) starting with that one."

Indiana closed out the season with a 6-2 record, winning it's first outright Big Ten regular season title since 1993 and most likely securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

By now the names are known. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are considered first round draft picks should they enter the upcoming draft. And they're surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that includes freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey and seniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls.

"They were really, really tough to beat the last time," Illini forward Sam McLaurin said. "It came down to the wire. They have a lot of great players, pros on their team, and a great supporting cast. It's going to be a tough matchup. Hopefully we can get it done."

By now any doubts regarding Illinois and the NCAA should be erased -- the Illini are firmly in the bracket. But that doesn't mean there isn't still plenty to play for before the Madness begins.

"We got Indiana next and we have a mindset that this is it for us," Paul said. "Especially for our seniors, we got to play, go out with a bang. So we, our focus right now is on the Big Ten tournament and our next opponent."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories