Illinois won the game without Thursday night's heroes Demetri McCamey and Trent Meacham making much of a contribution. Meacham was plagued by foul trouble, while Bruce Weber said that McCamey was bothered by an illness.
"Demetri's been sick. I don't know what he came down with, a little bit of a sinus bug. He let us know Friday night, and then Saturday came to the trainers and doc. He practiced a little bit yesterday. When you're worn down like that, you run out of gas."
Taking advantage of Indiana's smaller lineup, the Illini consistently set up Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale for midrange shots and layups/dunks. The two big men scored 16 points apiece, helping Illinois score 32 of their 65 points in the paint. Davis was 7-12 from the field, and Tisdale made his first 6 shots enroute to an 8-12 shooting night.
Davis was the star of the game. His 10 rebounds gave him another double-double, and he added 4 assists and 3 blocked shots. Tisdale also had 3 blocks as Illinois had 10 for the game.
The first half was nearly perfection for the Illini, but they couldn't sustain their focus and 63% shooting the entire game according to Weber.
"The first half was as good as you could ask for, with a sense of urgency to start the game. We moved the basketball, 14 assists in 17 baskets the first half, but we also had great stops.
"In the first half, we really did spread them no matter what defense they were in. We were patient. We shot only 5 threes the first half. You don't have to shoot threes. We are such good midrange shooters. If we spread people and kick, it makes it tough for people to guard us.
"And then in the second half, we didn't make a run and they did, which put some pressure on us. We played so good defense the first half. In the second half, we missed a couple shots, let the crowd get into it, and let them drive right by us. We didn't even put up a good fight."
The Illini exploited each of Indiana's four defensive fronts the first half, but they struggled understanding an unusual defensive alignment the second half.
"They played this Line and Three," Weber explained afterward. "Three guys guard the guards usually, and then they leave the big guys in the lane instead of a triangle and two or a box in one. Chester got a little shook and kept dribbling the ball. We said pass it. He got a layup on one of them, but I think he takes it as a challenge. He did make a big three which was crucial, and we finally got some stops."
Weber knew the Hoosiers would make a run, but he was still impressed by their coaching and crowd.
"I'm amazed at what Tom Crean did to keep them going. Even at halftime, they could have quit. The crowd was dead. But they came back ready to go. But we got a victory and that's the most important thing.
"This is not an easy place to play. You've got to give their crowd credit for showing up, giving them great energy and supporting the program."
Frazier had his usual all-around effort for Illinois. He scored 9 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, added 7 assists and 3 steals. But as usual, Weber said his biggest contribution was his defense.
"Chester did a great job of pressuring Verdell Jones. He made him struggle and didn't let him get going."
Illinois' bench came through with 19 points to take up the slack from McCamey and Meacham. Alex Legion's confidence likely got a boost as he made a couple shots and was set up to get fouled so he could make two free throws when the Hoosiers were scurring to get back into the game.
"It was good for Alex, he made a couple shots in the first half, and he got the free throws down when we needed it. Jeffrey did a nice job, really good energy. He hit a little jumper, got a layup on a UCLA cut. Calvin came in and gave us good energy."
Matt Roth led the Hoosiers with 13 points. Nick Williams scored 10 while Jones and Malik Story added 9 each. The Illini held them to 41% shooting compared with their own 50% effort. And they outrebounded IU 37-27.
Illinois, 21-5 and 9-4 in conference play, is now clearly a contender for a Big 10 Championship, especially if Michigan State loses at Purdue this next week. The Illini have Penn State coming up Wednesday night at the Assembly Hall, a team that is talented and playing with confidence. Weber needs the Illini fandom to help get his team a victory.
"We have a huge game coming up Wednesday. There are still some tickets left. We're pretty good, gosh darn it. They had a sellout today, and they have one win. I would think our people would take that as a challenge to support these guys.
"We have a chance to make a run. I'm hoping the students will come out and get on board and we get the place full for Penn State and then for Minnesota the next week.
"Penn State is struggling for their life, and they have beaten us twice in a row at home. Two years ago, they stole the Big 10 championship from us. It's a big game, and hopefully our kids play with the same urgency."