After giving up a 14-2 run immediately after taking a 38-33 lead at the beginning of the second half, Indiana continued to hang around. Down 47-40 with 8:42 to go, the Hoosiers continued to fight for buckets inside, including two in a row from Troy Williams and Austin Etherington with just over three minutes to go to bring IU within a point.
Yet, rather than one of the team's 16 turnovers, it was a defensive miscommunication that spelled the beginning of the end for IU on the next possession.
The Hoosiers had moved into a 2-3 zone to try and slow down the Fighting Illini with Tracy Abrams on the left side and Kendrick Nunn in the corner. Yogi Ferrell was positioned at the bottom of scheme with Vonleh in front of him. Abrams was thrown the ball, and Ferrell said he expected Vonleh to swing over and help, while Ferrell kept an eye on Nunn, the better shooter of the two.
Instead, Abrams was wide-open, and hesitated for a second, making sure he put a perfect stroke on it, and his 3-pointer fell through the bottom of the net. Coming into Thursday's game, Abrams was just shooting just 27.7 percent from beyond the arc and 33.8 percent from the field.
Ferrell said looking back, he took his chances staying with Nunn, and the shot cost his team, putting them behind two possessions and forcing the Hoosiers to rush into desperation shots and foul on defense.
"He left him pretty wide-open, and he banged the three," Ferrell said. "That was a dagger there.
"I pretty much picked my poison. I know Nunn is really good, especially from the left corner. I think he's been shooting 60 percent in the past five games from that left corner, so I just picked my poison for that one."
Hoosiers debut new uniforms for Big Ten Tournament
Earlier in the week, IU athletics announced that the Hoosiers would be participating with several other teams in a rollout of new uniforms for the "Made in March" jersey line.
IU still donned the same candy stripes and warm-up top as usual, but during the game, the team wore a cream jersey and shorts with "Hoosiers" in red letters and numbers on the front and back. The uniforms showed off some intricate designs that were much flashier than the uniforms IU fans have been used to for some time. Noah Vonleh and Stanford Robinson wore white t-shirts underneath their jerseys that may have even exaggerated the change from the plain white uniforms of past traditions.
IU athletics said the Hooisers would only wear the uniforms during Big Ten play, so it's uncertain when and where the team may use them again, whether during a possible NIT bid this post-season or in future seasons.
After the game, Ferrell said he enjoyed the change.
"They're lighter than our old ones, so I like them a lot," he said, before offering a chuckle. "Yeah, I can dunk. I can dunk now."
-Coming into Thursday's game, it appeared the battle may be decided in the pace of the game. Illinois had held four of its last six opponents in the 40's during the regular season, and the Fighting Illini were 17-7 in the regular season when holding opponents under 70 points and just 1-6 when opponents broke the 70-point mark. IU had been 3-11 during the regular season when scoring less than 70 points – one of those wins coming against Illinois at home – and 14-3 when falling below that mark. In scoring just 54 points, the Hoosiers are now 3-44 during the Crean era when the Hoosiers score fewer than 60 points.
-Stanford Robinson, Vonleh and Ferrell struggled, percentage-wise, shooting from the floor combining for just 7-of-27 from the field. Unfortunately, their replacements off the bench suffered even worse, combining for just four bench points on 2-of-12 shooting.