Hoosier MVP…Earl Calloway was only 2-of-8 from the floor and finished with nine points, but he gets the MVP nod thanks to the job he did on the defensive end against Illini point guard Dee Brown. Always the No. 1 concern for opposing teams, Calloway helped limit Brown to 10 points and four assists on 3-of-12 shooting. Other than a couple of fast-break layups and a deep, second-half 3-pointer when Rod Wilmont was guarding him, Brown wasn't a difference-maker on Sunday in the Illini's 12-point win.
Calloway played a season-high 30 minutes and it appears he'll continue to log significant minutes for the rest of the season. He's quick enough to defend any point guard in the league, and as his playing time increases, his decision-making improves as well. His play down the stretch will be important as he prepares for a 2006-07 season during which he's a potential starter at point guard for the yet-to-be-determined Hoosier coach.
Pivotal Stretch…Indiana simply isn't good enough defensively to keep teams from ripping off big runs, and that was the case again Sunday. This time, Illinois went on a 22-4, 10-minute first half run that erased a 6-5 IU lead and turned it into a 27-10 Illinois margin. Indiana would never get closer than 10 the rest of the way. It was just latest critical lapse for IU on the road. IU has been the victim of big runs by Iowa (14-0), Minnesota (13-0), Michigan State (10-0) and Wisconsin (14-2) on the road this season, and each time the end result has been a double-digit loss.
Illinois went 9-of-16 from the floor during that stretch. When its shots weren't falling, James Augustine and Warren Carter were there for offensive rebounds and putbacks. Indiana, meanwhile, was just 2-of-11 during that 10-minute time span while also committing seven turnovers. Many of IU's shots were ill-advised, and two of its turnovers came when IU couldn't in-bounds the ball and got a five-second call and then when Robert Vaden stepped over the end line after an Illinois make.
What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana's defense was woeful in the first half, so much so that the coaching staff opted to switch to a 2-3 zone for the majority of the second half. While there's nothing wrong with playing zone, it's surprising that a team that has so many athletes can't match up one-on-one on the defensive end.
The biggest part of the program is the heart of the IU defense. Marco Killingsworth continues to be a liability defensively, once again allowing Illinois' big men to get the ball down low and put points on the board. His back-up, Ben Allen, isn't any better. Allen doesn't have the foot speed to play with big men who are facing the basket, and he has yet to develop the discipline to not bite on shot and head fakes.
The switch to zone might address some of those problems on the initial shot, but it creates a whole new set of problems when it comes to rebounding. Indiana hasn't been very good at putting a body on their man on the defensive glass in the first place, and now that they have to find a man to keep off the glass, the problem might get even worse. That could prove troublesome Wednesday against a Penn State team that isn't big but is very active on the glass.
What I Found Most Surprising… Indiana didn't play with any more energy, passion or focus than it did before word got out of Mike Davis' resignation. The hope among many Indiana fans was the decision would relieve some of the pressure on the team and/or motivate them to play better to send Davis out on a positive note, but it was the same old Hoosiers in Champaign. Both teams had plenty to play for, but Illinois generally beat the Hoosiers to loose balls, played much harder on the defensive end, and a result controlled the game throughout.
After the game Davis said he believes the team must win four games before Selection Sunday to be included in the field of 65, but there have been no indications in recent weeks this team is capable of putting together that sort of run. Indiana looks like a team that might be hard pressed to get the one win it still needs to guarantee a .500 record and thus eligibility to play in the NIT. While it might seem unfathomable to think IU could lose its final nine Big Ten regular season games, this week's contest at home against Penn State is probably the only one it will be favored in, and the Nittany Lions have already won three road games this season.
What I Found Most Impressive…At least publicly, Mike Davis remains optimistic about his team's chances of turnings its fortunes around. There hasn't been much on the floor to think any sort of turnaround is imminent, but the Hoosier head coach continues to say his team will shake its recent struggles and get on a run that will get them into the postseason.
If that's going to happen, it better happen quickly. Suddenly Indiana has an identical regular season record as Minnesota and the Gophers are in arguably better shape to make the NCAA Tournament than the Hoosiers are. Minnesota has won four out of six, while Indiana has dropped five in a row and seven out of eight. Indiana remains a game ahead of Minnesota in the standings, but the Gophers have a head-to-head victory over IU and the fact the committee took a 7-9 Iowa team over a 10-6 Indiana team last season should show that the conference record won't prevent the committee from taking Minnesota and bypassing the Hoosiers.
"Since Mike resigned, we've all talked about how they would react. We told our guys we needed to get off to a good start and play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We got off to a good start and that kind of nullified any motivational edge."." – Illinois Coach Bruce Weber.
"They didn't let us finish them off. We struggled against the zone at times. If you make a couple of threes, you spread them out." – Bruce Weber.
"Being more active takes a lot of the pressure off Dee. He's been carrying us lately. I wanted to come out with energy and hit the boards. I didn't play well the first time against them." – Illinois forward James Augustine.
"It's time for us to win some games. I told our guys after that game that you can think about it and lose, or you can go out and win, play hard and do something special. With us being 13-10, it's not over." – IU Coach Mike Davis.
Random Thoughts…Illinois played without guard Jamar Smith, who was serving a one-game suspension. Illinois Coach Bruce Weber wouldn't elaborate on the reasons behind the disciplinary action…Indiana had no answers for Illinois' frontline. Big men James Augustine, Shaun Pruitt, Brian Randle, Warren Carter and Marcus Arnold combined to go 20-of-29 from the floor, including 20-of-26 from inside the 3-point arc…after connecting on two of its first three 3-point attempts, Indiana missed 12 straight 3s during a 25-minute stretch. Robert Vaden hit a 3-pointer one minute into the game, but then missed his final eight attempts.
Upon Further Review…Illinois
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