Albers: Takeaways from an OT loss to Illinois

The Hoosiers lost 83-80 in overtime at Illinois in their Big Ten opener Tuesday. So here's the question: Is the glass half full or half empty for Indiana? I examine here.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. --- There's a lot of different things you can look at and analyze from Indiana's 83-80 overtime loss at Illinois on Tuesday afternoon.

The bottom line is this: There's more reasons to think positive coming out of the game than there are negatives.

The Hoosiers (10-4, 0-1) played in a high-level basketball game in December, made a ton of mistakes, and still had a chance to win the basketball game. And on the road, no less. I'm not sure I saw that coming, not this soon.

Indiana had a season-high 23 turnovers, star freshman Noah Vonleh was straddled with four fouls down the stretch, and the Hoosiers had the ball with a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.

"We have a lot of chance to be very good because we fought, we battled," Indiana coach Tom Crean said afterward. "We just didn't get the result we wanted at the end. We did so many things well. We still have so many obvious things that we have to improve, but we were still right where we needed to be."

Many people will probably have questions about how Crean handled some things down the stretch. He left Vonleh out for an extended period of time late in regulation, and chose not to use any of his three timeouts to sub him back in. The Hoosiers were fortunate Illinois didn't extend its lead during that time.

But at the same time, Crean's method worked fine when Indiana got the ball back with just over 20 seconds and the game tied. Yogi Ferrell, who had a game-high 30 points and hit countless big shots, gave the ball up to Evan Gordon and couldn't get it back.

That left Gordon to run the offense. He dribbled around, ultimately ending up in the corner, where he hoisted and missed a last-second jumper.

I have to admit, I didn't have a great angle on the shot, but Crean was happy with it afterward.

"We couldn't have gotten a much better shot at the end of regulation with Evan. It just didn't go in. It was a great look. ... That's a set play. The look came after the movement, but that's a play that had been used in and out of the day that we had success with."

Even in overtime, after Illinois had pulled ahead by four and looked like it would win fairly easily, the Hoosiers responded and again gave themselves a chance late.

No, Indiana ultimately did not win the game. But there's more reason for hope at this point in the season than there is for despair. This team is talented, and if it can find the right balance between playing fast but taking care of the ball, it has a chance to be pretty good.

If I questioned anything down the stretch, it was how many minutes freshman Stan Robinson played. Crean trusted Robinson to guard Illinois star Rayvonte Rice, and he struggled. Robinson also took several questionable shots at key times down the stretch.

Why not put senior forward Will Sheehey on Rice? He always draws the other team's best player, and he relishes those big moments. I didn't quite understand that one.

Jeremy Hollowell had struggled and Troy Williams has had his share of turnover issues this season, so maybe that's why he went with Robinson. But I thought that moment was a little bit too big for Robinson at this point in his development.

"Stan is strong enough to deal with that forearm push off that he does," Crean said of putting him on Rice. "Stan's a tough guy and in the last seven games he's got our highest plus-minus. He's been moving up the ladder for us and we're very confident with him moving forward."

There's a lot of ways to look at Tuesday's loss to Illinois in the Big Ten opener. Me, I'm taking a glass half-full look. This team has a chance to be pretty good.


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