Game Analysis: IU 80, Illinois 74

Here is a look at the things that Indiana did well Sunday afternoon in Champaign and a few areas that could still use improvement. In any case, IU is now 4-1 in Big Ten play and 2-1 in true road games after its 80-74 win over Illinois.

Here is an analysis of Sunday’s 80-74 Indiana victory over Illinois at State Farm Center. The win improved IU’s record to 4-1 in Big Ten play. This analysis is a regular part of our AllHoosiers.com coverage of Indiana basketball this season.

WHAT LOOKED GOOD:Indiana kept fighting back. The Hoosiers found themselves in early holes of 9-0, 11-2 and 14-3 but kept coming back. Later, after IU had been up by 11 at one point in the first half, the Hoosiers had a 10-point lead at 50-40, only to watch the Illini go on a 21-2 run that made it 61-52. Indiana finished the game on a 13-2 run. That started with a 3-pointer by Nick Zeisloft with 2:44 to play. IU got the lead back at 73-72 on a line drive tip in by Troy Williams off a missed shot in the lane by Yogi Ferrell with 1:25 to play. IU made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 41.7 seconds after Illinois had cut the lead to one at 75-74. Williams hit four of those and Zeisloft had one. … Indiana had a 31-25 edge on the boards but probably most importantly, Illinois only managed four offensive rebounds. The Illini were limited to five second chance points. Williams had nine rebounds and James Blackmon Jr. had seven. … IU also did a nice job from distance where it made 11-of-25 3-point attempts. Blackmon snapped out of a mini slump by making 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.

WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:One thing that is difficult to watch at times is how quickly a team can put a run up against the Hoosiers. That happened a couple of times in this game. When teams are successful, IU is usually only getting one shot and it’s not a shot in the paint. When IU was at its best Sunday it was driving and kicking or just taking it to the basket. … IU needs to get more from Emmitt Holt off the bench. He had four points and two rebounds in 11 minutes but he missed a wide open follow slam dunk at a critical point late in the second half. … The 3-point defense needs to be better. Illinois made 12-of-27 from 3-point range, 44.4 percent. Kendrick Nunn and Ahmad Starks combined to hit 11-of-18 from 3-point range.

TWO ROAD WINS WITH SIX TO GO

: Indiana has now won two road games in three opportunities in Big Ten play. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is always big but beating Nebraska and Illinois is even more special because it’s the only time the Hoosiers will play those opponents this season. So come late in the season when you’re looking at tie-breaker scenarios, Indiana will have a leg up on both of those opponents. The same is true with IU’s home win over Penn State last week.

FOR STARTERS:For the second game in a row, IU went with Troy Williams, Collin Hartman, Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. IU’s starting five combined to hit 20-of-43 shots from the field though if you take away Ferrell and Johnson that number would be 17-of-27. Starters hit 7-of-19 from 3-point range and 13-of-15 from the free throw line. The five starters combined for 22 of the 31 rebounds, all 16 assists and eight of the nine turnovers. The starters scored 60 of IU’s 80 points.

INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here’s a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Sunday’s victory over Illinois:

1. JAMES BLACKMON JR.: Blackmon broke out of his mini slump from beyond the 3-point arc by hitting 4-of-6 from distance as part of his 21 points. Coming into the game he was 5-for-21 from beyond the arc in Big Ten play. He just looked more comfortable and not surprisingly, once he hit a 3 he seemed to settle down and get hot. He had another one where he was fouled on a 3 and got three free throws. He made all three and cut the lead at that time to 64-63. Blackmon was 7-of-12 from the field and had just two turnovers in 34 minutes. He also had a sweet pass on a fast break to Max Hoetzel that resulted in a layup and free throw.

2. NICK ZEISLOFT:: Tom Crean went out of his way to praise Zeisloft for his leadership as well as his ability to knock down shots. He came off the bench to score 10 points, hit three 3-pointers on five attempts and did not commit a turnover in 19 minutes. That was just his third game in double figures this season and the first since Nov. 20 when he scored 10 against SMU.

3. YOGI FERRELL: Yogi may have only hit one of nine shots in 38 minutes of play but he did so many things as a facilitator as well as taking care of the basketball. Ferrell had a season-high nine assists. In fact, in IU’s two conference road wins, Ferrell has 17 assists. He had eight against Nebraska in the Big Ten opener. Ferrell finished with seven points and just one turnover in those 38 minutes.

NEXT UP: Indiana (14-4, 4-1) returns home to face Maryland (17-2, 5-1) Thursday night at Assembly Hall in what will have first place ramifications. Interestingly, Maryland’s only loss was at Illinois. Iowa and Wisconsin are the other two teams that are currently tied with IU at 4-1 in conference. The game will tip at 9 p.m. on ESPNU .

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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