Illini Pound It Inside to Overtake Hoosiers

It was the Illini's annual Paint the Hall Orange game, and the Illini needed to come through with a win to stay tied in the loss column in the race for the Big Ten Championship. The Illini jumped out to a quick double digit lead, and were able to hold it throughout the game en route to a 70-58 victory. Illinois was led by James Augustine's double double, and Brian Randle's 12 points, 5 rebounds, and one amazing posterization of Marco Killingsworth.

With the turmoil surrounding the Indiana Hoosier program, no one knew what to expect from them when they traveled to Champaign on Sunday afternoon to take on the Fighting Illini. The Hoosiers got down early, and they did not give up, but it was not enough to knock off Bruce Weber and his Fighting Illini in front of the orange clad Champaign crowd.

It was extremely cold in Champaign on Sunday afternoon, and the only thing colder than the weather outside was the three point shooting inside Assembly Hall. The Fighting Illini and the visiting Indiana Hoosiers managed to shoot a combined seven-for-thirty-nine, or 18%, from behind the three point arc in Sunday afternoon's contest. With their three point shots not falling, the Illini relied on their inside strength to lead the way over Indiana. With Sunday afternoon's win, the Illini now sit at 8-4 in Big Ten play, tied with Wisconsin and Ohio State, and just a half a game behind the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In a game with shooters not being able to find the basket, it started out much different for the Illini as junior shooting guard Rich McBride hit two quick three pointers. After McBride's sharpshooting from the outside, the Illini used their inside strength and defense to build up a quick double digit lead over the Hoosiers, a lead which the Illini never let up throughout the entire contest. In the first half, the Illini were able to build up a seventeen point lead, but they went into the half with just a thirteen point lead.

The second half was played pretty much to a standstill. The Hoosiers came out and zoned the Illini exclusively, and while they stymied the Illini offense, they could not do anything on the offensive end of the court to make a serious run at Illini's lead. While the Hoosiers could never cut into the Illini lead, the Illini could never extend their lead either. The Illinois lead fluctuated between seventeen and eleven points throughout the first half with neither team able to make that serious run.

While the Hoosiers zone defense was very effective in slowing down the Illini offense, the size mismatches on the inside made it very easy for the Illini to score forty of their seventy points inside the paint, including numerous slam dunks. Brian Randle showed anyone watching on CBS why he is nicknamed The Freak with his posterization of Indiana senior center Marco Killingsworth in the second half.

Offensive Efficiency: 104.98
Defensive Efficiency: 86.98
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 73.53%
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 47.62%

With the Hoosiers in a zone for much of the game, the Illini used their superior height and rebounding instincts to beat Indiana to the offensive glass. On every missed shot opportunity, the Illini would be hounding the holes in the Hoosier zone looking for offensive rebounding opportunities, and they were finding them. Whether it was Brian Randle, James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt, or even Warren Carter the Illini were not having any problems getting second chance opportunities.

There were quite a few recruits in attendance for the Paint the Hall Orange Game on Sunday afternoon including the three Illini commitments in the Class of 2007: Bill Cole, Mike Tisdale, and Eric Gordon.

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