Rice returned to form, scoring 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field. One of the very few bright spots for the Illini offensively, Rice posted his highest point total since scoring 29 against the Hoosiers on New Year's Eve.
"I mean, yeah we're having fun out there with our team, just going out there competing," Rice said. "Losing is not fun. We're just going to come back and see what we can get better at. "
Three stars next in line:
The junior had a solid showing, his second game in a row he's drawn praise from Coach John Groce. Egwu scored eight points and had five rebounds. While Hoosiers freshman Noah Vonleh got the best of Egwu on the boards (he finished with 14), the Illini junior held his counterpart to four points. It was Vonleh's lowest point total since late November.
"Nnanna just did a great job," Groce said. "He made it hard on him to do things in the post. He battled him enough that Vonleh had to earn everything he got."
The freshman answered the call with Tracy Abrams in and out with back spasms. Tate played a career high 27 minutes, scoring six points and five assists. It's clear he's got to develop both mentally (three turnovers) and physically (struggled defensively), but that's the case for most freshmen.
"We work hard every day in practice," Tate said. "We're right there. We just have to make some more plays towards the end. Indiana did a good job of doing that. We're just getting better. We'll be fine."
Trainer Paul Schmidt
Schmidt did everything he could to keep Abrams on the court, working from pre-game through the entire game to try to loosen Abrams up. He also was in charge of readying Rice (adductor strain), who still isn't 100 percent. Here's a tip of the cap to Schmidt -- it would have been hard to peg a fourth Illini player for this honor roll.