No. 18 Indiana 74, Illinois 47
CHAMPAIGN - If you shut down Malcolm Hill, you shut down Illinois.
No. 18 Indiana took its opponent's best player out of the game and slowly exposed all of the Illini's weaknesses, en route to their third straight win at State Farm Center.
The Hoosiers (23-6, 13-3 Big Ten) -- who now hold a game and a half lead atop the Big Ten standings with just a week and a half left in the regular season -- limited Hill (2-for-7 FG) to five points, his lowest point total since scoring two at Iowa on Feb. 25, 2015. Hill didn't score his first points until he made a long two with 7:37 remaining.
Meanwhile, All-Big Ten guarantee Yogi Ferrell left a lasting impression in his last game at the State Farm Center, leading Indiana with 27 points (11-for-18 FG, 5-10 three), five assists and five rebounds. Freshman Thomas Bryant added 14 points (5-for-5 FG) and eight rebounds, and former Illinois State guard Nick Zeisloft added 14 (4-for-7 three).
After trailing by one at halftime, Indiana outscored the Illini 47-19 in the second half, sparked by a seven-point surge in the first few minutes by Bryant, who was limited to 10 first-half minutes due to foul trouble. The Hoosiers shot 10-for-17 from three in the second half.
Indiana outrebounded Illinois 37-17 and hauled in 40 percent of rebounds on their offensive end (10 offensive rebounds to 15 Illinois defensive rebounds).
Freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands led the Illini (12-16, 4-11 Big Ten) with 21 points on 7-for-13 FG, including 5-for-9 from three. The rest of the Illini shot a combined 12-for-35 (34.3 percent).
Illinois stormed to a 12-4 lead behind Coleman-Lands and Maverick Morgan, who combined to make their first five shots including two three-pointers from Coleman-Lands.
Yet, the Illini followed the hot start with one of its all-too-familiar long scoring droughts (6 minutes, 21 seconds) and Indiana went on an 11-0 run to take the lead. But Illinois battled back to take a 28-27 lead.
But after a second-half beatdown, the Illini are now 1-4 during Big Ten play after taking a halftime lead.
The Illini lost their two games to Indiana this season by a combined 61 points.
What it means
The two teams in the Indiana-Illinois rivalry continue to head in opposite directions. Tom Crean has built an athletic, skilled roster led by an elite point guard and a future NBA big man. John Groce's banged-up, depleted roster has some talented wings, not enough athleticism, not enough size and a fifth-year point guard who came off the bench at La Salle last season. Indiana survived a bad injury, reinvented its team a bit (focusing on defense) and had complementary players step up. Illinois is still trying to find its path to success heading into Game No. 29.
What went right
Coleman-Lands continues his three-point assault. He has made 23 of 52 threes(44.2 percent) over the past six games. Coleman-Lands now has 70 threes on the season, breaking D.J. Richardson's Illini record for most made threes by a true freshman (69). Cory Bradford made 85 as a redshirt freshman.
The Illini defense continues to improve, at least in first halves. They've held four straight opponents under 30 first-half points. But they've allowed 37 or more in the second half in five straight games. Needless to say, the Illini defense is trending up. The Illini are playing better team concepts on defense -- in first halves.
What went wrong
Illinois continues to lack rhyme or reason on offense. They're forcing bad shots and relying too often on isolation. Illinois couldn't break down Indiana's defense and relied too often on contested threes. The Illini lack the point guard or the quickness off the dribble to win that way.
The scoring droughts continue to crush the Illini. During the 6:21 scoreless streak, the Illini missed six field goals and had three turnovers. The Illini will miss some good looks, but far too often they're stacking bad shots and bad turnovers and struggle to break the trend. Part of that is the lack of a point guard. Part of it is just basketball IQ.
The Illini junior stars had their worst combined game of the season. Hill struggled to find openings and looked too laidback, while Kendrick Nunn continues to be careless with the ball with his second straight game with four turnovers.
Illinois was dominated on the interior. Illinois lacks the athleticism to match up with Indiana on the glass. Maverick Morgan (four points, four rebounds) has had back-to-back lackluster performances, while Michael Finke has hit the freshman wall -- hard. Finke's shot (0-for-5 three) is flat. With such a depleted roster, Illinois couldn't afford his decline.
Star of the game
Yogi Ferrell: The senior point guard is the Indiana version of Dee Brown. He does so much for his team. He breaks down defenses, gets to the rim, creates for teammates, is a streaky shooter and provides pesky defense. He is two assists away from joining Brown as the only Big Ten players to total 1,800 points, 400 rebounds and 600 assists.
Illinois on Sunday hosts one of just three Big Ten teams it's beaten this season, Minnesota. But the Gophers -- who the Illini defeated 76-71 at WIlliams Arena on Jan. 23 -- have followed a 14-game losing streak with back-to-back home wins over Maryland and Rutgers. The Gophers are improving and feeling confident but are still about 35 spots below the Illini in the KenPom rankings. This is the Illini's second-most winnable game on the Big Ten slate. They must protect home court against a worse team -- and a team they likely will see on Wednesday of the Big Ten Tournament.