Here is an analysis of Thursday's 64-54 loss to Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. This analysis has been a regular part of our AllHoosiers.com coverage of Indiana basketball this season.
WHAT LOOKED GOOD: Indiana had flashes of good things as it fought back after falling behind 9-0 at the outset. Three-point shooting, which hasn't been an IU strength this season, looked to be early when the Hoosiers made six of their first eight 3-point shots. But it was a mirage. Indiana missed its final 12 3-point attempts including all 10 in the second half. Will Sheehey looked good early and appeared primed to put the Hoosiers on his back. But after scoring 11 points early, Sheehey only scored two more points the final 25 minutes of the game including just two in the second half. Troy Williams had some good spurts but nothing sustained.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:As much as things changed, they stayed the same. That was the case for Indiana Thursday afternoon. The Hoosiers shot 35 percent from the field, missed their final 12 3-point shots and committed 16 turnovers. IU was limited to 20 points in the past, 18 of which came in the second half. IU allowed Illinois too many key offensive rebounds in the second half. Five of Nnanna Egwu's seven rebounds for the game came on the offense end. And the Hoosiers simply did not do a good enough job slowing down Tracy Abrams. He had 25 points including two big 3-pointers at times in the game where it looked as if IU was making a run. Noah Vonleh was less than effective after returning to the starting lineup against the Illini. He was 3-for-9 from the field, missed the front end of a one-and-one, was called for goal-tending twice and really struggled to finish around the rim. Indiana got very little production from its bench on Thursday, too. The bench scored a total of four points on 2-of-12 shooting. That's the fewest points the bench has scored this season.
FOR STARTERS:The starting lineup was Will Sheehey, Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Yogi Ferrell and Stanford Robinson. Those five combined to score 50 of Indiana's 54 points. The starters shot 16-of-39 from the field, had 18 of the teams' 35 rebounds and was 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Thursday's loss to Illinois:
1. YOGI FERRELL: The reality with Yogi this season is that the sophomore simply has to do too much for Indiana to be successful. And if he's not making shots, the Hoosiers have and will continue to struggle. Thursday, he was 3-of-13 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3-point range. He played 37 minutes. One key sequence that he didn't do well with on Thursday was he had a baseline drive with Indiana leading 38-33 where he got to the rim but couldn't finish. IU would have led by seven. Instead, Illinois came right back to go on an 11-0 run and retake control of the game.
2. NOAH VONLEH: Vonleh has only played in three of IU's last five games, and in those games has scored a total of 17 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. Probably more concerning is that he is 6-of-16 from the field including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. The bottom line is that IU simply needs more production out of Vonleh if it expects to be successful. Vonleh also missed a crucial 1-and-1 free throw opportunity late in the game.
WILL SHEEHEY: The senior was clearly a spark for Indiana early as he scored 11 points in the first half and hit all three of his 3-point attempts. But he cooled off in the second half and only scored two. In fact, he really only scored two in the final 25 minutes. He also had five assists and four turnovers in 35 minutes of action.
NEXT UP: Indiana (17-15) will wait until Sunday night to learn if it will qualify for the 2014 National Invitation Tournament. Those matchups will be released later in the evening after the NCAA Tournament pairings are announced.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch