Pruitt's Career-High Not Enough for Illini

Illinois traveled to Bloomington, IN on Tuesday night to meet up with the Indiana Hoosiers looking for their first road win in Big Ten Conference play. Unfortunately, the Illini's comeback did not have the same results as Missouri's did the night before on ESPN, and the Illini squandered Shaun Pruitt's career-high 17 points in their 62-60 loss to Indiana.

Marco Killingsworth was the talk of the media before the Illini took the floor against the team from Bloomington called the Hoosiers. But when the game started on Tuesday night, the Illini were the aggressor and in the first eight minutes it looked like the Illini were about to run away with the game as they held a 14-3 lead before the Hoosiers knew what hit them. In those first eight minutes, Illinois scored on six different layups or slams including six points for Illini sophomore Shaun Pruitt.

In a game of runs, it was Indiana's turn to make a run. The Hoosiers were down nine, and reeling. They had only made one field goal, and their star Marco Killingsworth has taken only one shot, and already had two turnovers. Someone needed to step up for the Hoosiers if they were going to make the game competitive on their home court. Roderick Wilmont was the guy to take charge for the Hoosiers. He made two three pointers in a row to cut the Illini lead to 14-9, and the Hoosiers run was just getting started. Over the next ten minutes of game time, the Hoosiers looked like they were about to run the Illini out of the gym.

From the 12:00 minute mark of the first half, to the final minute of the half the Hoosiers went on a 24-7 run to take a 27-19 lead over the Fighting Illini. After a Brian Randle slam dunk, and a Marco Killingsworth free throw, the Illini had the final possession of the half down seven with just thirty-five seconds on the clock. Dee Brown held the ball near half court for the first twenty seconds of that possession before making a move. Dee passed the ball to Rich McBride, and then made a move to get open. Dee ended up with the ball on the wing outside of the three point line with Marco Killingsworth guarding him. Brown made a step-back move and then pulled up for a three that went in to cut the Hoosier lead at the half to 28-24.

Both teams had to head into the locker room with a positive outlook heading into the second half. The Illini had withstood a 26-5 Hoosier run, had established their inside game thanks to sophomore Shaun Pruitt's career-half (which would turn into a career-game) and were only down four points despite foul trouble for both James Augustine and Dee Brown and only the three-pointer from Dee Brown for his scoring output. Indiana had to be happy heading into half because they came back from a 12-3 deficit in the first eight minutes of the game to be leading at half, and their leading scorers, Killingsworth and Vaden, had yet to make any sort of impact on the game outside of Killingsworth's intentional foul on Shaun Pruitt.

Speaking of Killingsworth's intention foul, Indiana Head Coach Mike Davis receives the foot in the mouth quote of the evening during the pre-half time interview with Erin Andrews. Andrews started out the questioning stating "The officials have had some words with Marco about his actions inside. What do you say to him during the half?" Davis responded, "Marco's an enforcer. We want Marco to play with intensity and play with emotion all the time."

Something was going to change in the second half, it was just a matter of what it was going to be. Over the first twelve minutes of the half, it was Indiana that took control of the game thanks to the inside play of Killingsworth. In the first half, Illinois for the most part, had stayed behind Marco on defense, but in the second half they went to fronting the Hoosier big man. Killingsworth used this change in the Illini defensive philosophy to score and score often as the half wore on. Indiana was up 55-42 when the under eight minute media time out occurred. The Fighting Illini were reeling. Dee Brown, James Augustine, and Brian Randle were in foul trouble. Things looked grim for the Illini, and they were down, but apparently not out of the game.

The Illini crawled back from the thirteen point deficit and with 2:18 left of the clock the Illini cut the Hoosier lead to two points on a Brian Randle dunk. The Illini were in the game, and they had a chance to win in the final two minutes. During the Illini's 14-3 run they dominated the paint. All six baskets the Illini scored during the run were either a slam dunk or a lay up from James Augustine or Brian Randle. The Illini had a chance to tie the game at sixty, but James Augustine missed on a great look from just past the right block.

Illinois then quickly fouled Marco Killingsworth, to put him on the line. Killingsworth made one of two from the line, putting Illinois down 61-58 with 20.2 seconds left and the ball without any time outs. On the next possession, Dee Brown took a wild fade away three pointer over Robert Vaden and missed, but Jamar Smith tipped in the miss to put Illinois down 61-60. One the ensuing inbound pass, Dee Brown instinctively committed his fifth foul by grabbing Robert Vaden to stop the clock.

Vaden, a terrific free throw shooter, only hit one of two from the line. James Augustine grabbed the rebound and found Rich McBride who would end up taking a half court shot with one second left on the clock. There was to be no heroics in the same mold of Nick Anderson on Tuesday night in Bloomington against a team called the Hoosiers, as Rich McBride's shot went off the top of the backboard. Immediately after McBride's miss the Indiana crowd stormed the court in jubilation as their Hoosiers defeated the Illini for the first time in five attempts.

Offensive Efficiency: 89.50
Defensive Efficiency: 92.48
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 70.6%
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 18.75%

  • Congratulations to Shaun Pruitt for a great game on Tuesday evening. If Pruitt can continue to play at this level, Illinois may have found the third scorer they need behind Augustine and Brown to win the Big Ten Championship. Pruitt's seventeen points and seven rebounds led the team.
  • For the second straight Big Ten road game, Dee Brown did not put points on the board for the Fighting Illini. Against Iowa Brown scored six points and Tuesday night against Indiana, Brown only scored five points. Even though Brown only scored five points, he played a vital role in what would be the Illini's offense against Indiana, the inside game. Brown dished out eleven assists, most of them to cutters for slam dunks, or to an Illini post player in a position to score.
  • Here is a stat I never thought I would see.

    Points in the Paint
    Illinois: 44
    Indiana: 24

    Yep, the Illini found out that they can score, and score well when the ball gets inside to James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt, or Brian Randle. All three players were in double figures, the only Illini in double figures, and Augustine had the lowest field goal percentage of the trio at fifty percent.
  • I wish I could pretend Illinois did not miss eight free throws, including three from normally reliable James Augustine.
  • I admit it; I smiled when Roderick Wilmont went down with his injury because he was killing Illinois. Not seeing him on the court was the best gift I could have received at that moment in time.

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