Sunday's trip to Champaign, Ill., might have marked the first appearance on Mike Davis' farewell tour, but Indiana's performance was all too familiar.
Illinois used a 22-4 first-half run to open a 17-point lead and never looked back in its 70-58 win over the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Indiana's sixth straight loss in as many tries on the road in the Big Ten.
Illinois (22-4/8-4) moved within a half-game of league leader Iowa, while Indiana (13-10/5-7) lost for the seventh time in its last eight games and inched even closer to playing its way out of the NCAA Tournament.
In a scene that's become all too familiar, Indiana could do little to combat the Illini on the boards, and Davis' team did even less on the defensive end. Illinois shot 50 percent (25-of-50) and dominated Indiana on the boards, out-rebounding IU 37-25.
Indiana threw a variety of defensive looks at the Illini, playing some man-to-man, some 2-3 zone and some 1-3-1 as well. While the 2-3 zone helped slow Illinois in the second half, ultimately Illinois' big frontline of James Augustine (18 points, 10 rebounds), Brian Randle (12 points, five rebounds, three assists) and Warren Carter (nine points, three rebounds) was too big and too good for Indiana Sunday.
Davis said that the reason for the abundance of zone in the second half was the realization that Indiana hasn't been very good in its man-to-man defense, and it was time for a switch.
"We are going to try to play a lot more zone," said Davis, looking ahead to the team's final four regular season games. "Our man-to-man is just bad. We have too many guys that can't play man. We have too many weaknesses."
That was apparent in the first half when Illinois picked the Hoosiers apart early. Illinois hit 11 of its first 19 shots in the game to jump to the 27-10 lead with 7:58 remaining. On the few shots Illinois missed, Augustine and center Shaun Pruitt were often there for offensive rebounds and putbacks.
While Davis is hoping the switch to more zone can address some of the team's defensive struggles in the season's stretch run, there isn't a whole lot of changes he can make to address the problems on the glass.
"We talked about putting bodies on guys, and I thought we did a poor job in that area (today)," Davis said. "You have to put a body on him instead of just running in to get the rebound. We need all five guys on the boards."
Indiana did do a good job containing Illini guard Dee Brown, who finished with 10 points and four assists while shooting just 3-of-12 in the game. In two games against IU this season, Brown was just 4-of-21, which included a 1-of-9, five-point effort in IU's 62-60 win in Bloomington last month.
Davis gave much of the credit to Earl Calloway and Lewis Monroe for slowing down Brown. Calloway was a factor on both ends, finishing with nine points, three assists and three steals in 30 minutes of action.
Indiana was led by Marco Killingsworth, who had 15 points and six rebounds. But the Hoosier center missed a handful of point blank layups, the sort of misses that Davis said played a big part in the Hoosiers' early hole.
"We missed five layups and some wide open 3s (in the first half)," said Davis.
Another player who continues to struggle is Robert Vaden, who scored nine points on 4-of-13 shooting. His afternoon included a 1-of-9 effort from behind the 3-point arc. As a team Indiana was just 4-of-22 from behind the 3-point arc, including 12 straight misses during one stretch.
"That's been our thing for a couple of weeks we haven't made shots," said Davis. "But I'd rather make the layups. We're missing too many layups."
Indiana is also missing too many opportunities to get much-needed wins to improve its postseason resume. For a team that was once ranked in the nation's top 10, Indiana suddenly go on a run down the stretch to earn its first NCAA Tournament invitation since 2003.
"I think our magic number is four," said Davis. "We have to get to 17 wins to get to the tournament."
Killingsworth 5-11 5-7 15, Vaden 4-13 0-0 9, Strickland 2-5 3-4 8, Monroe 1-2 0-0 2, Calloway 2-8 4-4 9, Wilmont 4-8 2-2 10, Kline 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 1-5 0-0 2, Ratliff 1-4 0-0 3, Suhr 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-56 14-17 58.
Pruitt 3-3 2-2 8, Randle 5-9 2-2 12, Augustine 7-11 4-4 18, McBride 2-8 2-2 8, Brown 3-12 3-4 10, Frazier 0-1 1-2 1, Arnold 2-2 0-04, Carter 3-4 3-6 9. Totals 25-50 17-22 70.
Halftime Score: Illinois 38, Indiana 25. 3-Pointers: Indiana 4-22 (Vaden 1-9, Strickland 1-4, Monroe 0-1, Calloway 1-3, Wilmont 0-1, Allen 0-2, Ratliff 1-2), Illinois 3-17 (Randle 0-2, Augustine 0-1, McBride 2-7, Brown 1-6, Frazier 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 25 (Killingsworth 6), Illinois 37 (Augustine 10). Assists: Indiana 9 (Calloway 3), Illinois 11 (Brown 4). Turnovers: Indian 14 (Calloway 4), Illinois 18 (Randle 5). Blocks: Indiana 0, Illinois 2 (Augustine 2).
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