WHAT LOOKED GOOD: One of the biggest numbers that jumps out from the statistics sheet Sunday was offensive rebounds for Illinois. The Illini were averaging more than 12 per game, good enough to rank fourth in the Big Ten. In a game against Wisconsin earlier, Illinois had 25 offensive rebounds (the Illini missed 54 shots in the game though). Sunday against IU, the Illini had four offensive boards. And even more importantly, those four offensive boards did not result in a single point. Indiana had a 42-28 edge on the boards and Noah Vonleh had 14 of those. Eleven of his 14 were on the defensive end which meant he controlled the glass and kept the Illini off of it. Indiana turned it over 13 times but only five in the second half. In fact, through the first media timeout of the second half IU did not have a single second-half turnover. Defensively, the Hoosiers limited Illinois to 46 points, the fewest points a Tom Crean-coached team has allowed a Big Ten opponent in six seasons at Indiana. And the Hoosiers were consistent on defense, allowing 24 in the first half and 22 in the second. Illinois made 33 percent of its shots against IU including 22 percent (5-of-23) from 3-point range. In two games against IU this season, Illinois was 7-for-40 from 3-point range.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:I think you'd still like to see Noah Vonleh get more than six shots from the field, zero free throws attempts and a few more touches in the offense. Now, a lot of that was the fact Illinois was taking Vonleh away inside and make those entry passes difficult. Still that was the second fewest points Vonleh has scored in his college career. He was held scoreless against Connecticut in November. The important thing for IU is that the Hoosiers still won without Vonleh scoring more than two baskets. IU is now 1-1 when Vonleh is held to four points or fewer. It should also be pointed out though how much Vonleh impacted the game without scoring. He did have 14 rebounds, one off his career high of 15 against Stony Brook. Another concern in this one was that Rayvonte Rice was able to score 20 points for the Illini. He now has 49 this season in two games against Indiana. But he was slumping and was held scoreless Thursday night at Ohio State. To go from scoreless to a 20-point effort against IU is a major leap.
FOR STARTERS:Indiana tried a new starting lineup. It was similar to the group that started Tuesday against Michigan State except Tom Crean went with Will Sheehey in place of Austin Etherington. The other four were the same as Tuesday. IU had three freshmen in the lineup: Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams and Vonleh. The other two starters were Yogi Ferrell and Sheehey. Sunday, the starters combined to score 44 of the 56 points, shooting 16-for-37 from the field. Take away Robinson, and IU starters were a perfect 10-for-10 at the line. Add him in, and they were 10-for-13. The starters also accounted for 35 of the 42 rebounds. Vonleh had 14 and Sheehey had nine.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Sunday's win over Illinois:
1. YOGI FERRELL: Crean said that Ferrell is letting the game coming to him more. I think that's the perfect way to put. He didn't seem to force as many things Sunday. Consider this statistic: Ferrell turned it over twice in the first 66 seconds of the game. In his other 34 plus minutes of play, the sophomore point guard only turned it over once. Three times in 36 minutes is OK especially when he contributed a game-high 17 points, with four rebounds and a team-high five assists. But here is an indicator of his performance: He scored 17 points but only needed seven shots from the field to get there. Ferrell was 4-of-7 from the field and 1-of-3 from 3-point range. But he knocked down all eight of his foul shots. All in all a really solid effort.
2. Jeff Howard: In the last three games, Howard has played 14, 19 and 14 minutes. He had only had one other double digit minutes game in his career before then. He has become a contributor for the Hoosiers. Sunday, he made a huge play with 5:55 remaining when he tipped in a Noah Vonleh missed shot to put the Hoosiers ahead 48-39. Howard also had one rebound, one assist and one turnover. But 14 minutes compared to 2 minutes he played the first time the teams met show how far the senior walk-on from Westfield, Ind. Has come in a very short period of time.
AUSTIN ETHERINGTON: Etherington continues to contribute more and more for the Hoosiers. He had seven first-half points Sunday and was a huge early lift for IU. He was the first sub in the game. He played a career-high 21 minutes. He has now played between 17 and 21 minutes in each of the last five games. That's remarkable especially considering that the game before that he didn't play at all against Michigan State and the game before that, the Big Ten opener at Illinois, he played 3 minutes. He did not commit a turnover, had two rebounds and a steal and made 2-of-4 shots attempts. Both were layups of the reverse variety. He missed his only 3-point attempt but knocked 3-of-5 foul shots. Etherington has become a solid part of the rotation.
NEXT UP: Indiana (13-7, 3-4 Big Ten) travels to Nebraska Thursday in what he become a more and more difficult venue for opposing teams. The game will tip at 8:15 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. The Hoosiers then return home next Sunday to play host to Michigan at 1 p.m. at Assembly Hall.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch