Illini Unkind to Hoosiers

Champaign, Ill. - Indiana's five-game winning streak is over. A day after entering the rankings for the first time all season, the No. 24 Hoosiers turned in their worst offensive effort of the season, had one player score in double digits, shot 38.6 percent from the field and flat out lost to Illinois, 51-43...

Champaign, Ill. – Indiana's five-game winning streak is over.

A day after entering the rankings for the first time all season, the No. 24 Hoosiers turned in their worst offensive effort of the season, had one player score in double digits, shot 38.6 percent from the field and flat out lost to Illinois, 51-43.

Welcome to Champaign-Urbana, Mr. Kelvin Sampson.

The Indiana coach, making his first ever appearance in the other Assembly Hall, was greeted with a chorus of boos when he made his first appearance on the court 15 seconds before pre-game introductions.

All night long, the Indiana coach was the target of much of the jeering and chants from the Illinois faithful. A sold-out orange-clad throng of 16,618 people, still upset over the last-minute defection of former Illinois recruit Eric Gordon to the Hoosiers.

And while the Illinois players and head coach both credited the home crowd for their support tonight, Sampson, after complimenting the fans, denied the vocal onslaught of the spectators was the story.

"Illinois' team was better than our team tonight – that was the story," Sampson said.

The better team was paced by Rich McBride and his game-high 15 points. Warren Carter added 14 points and six rebounds and center Shaun Pruitt scored 10 points and grabbed 13 boards. Not bad for Pruitt, a guy who until yesterday, many, including Illinois Coach Bruce Weber, thought wouldn't play against the Hoosiers. Pruitt has been nursing a strained MCL in his left knee.

"At first (the knee) was kind of sore and kind of stiff," said Pruitt. "Then I guess the adrenaline took over. I just wanted to win so bad."

On the defensive end, Pruitt drew D.J. White.

White was IU's lone double-digit scorer with 12 points. White, who also collected eight boards, shot 5-for-8 from the field.

The rest of the Hoosiers, however, didn't fare so well, shooting 12-of-36 from the field, a 33.3 percent clip. Earl Calloway was IU's next highest scorer with eight points.

"I thought their kids really competed," Sampson said.

It was IU's lowest offensive output of the season. The previous low was the 51 IU scored in a 54-51 loss Nov. 28 at Duke.

"Their defense was good. They've been a good defensive team all year," Sampson said. "I didn't think our offense was very good either."

Indiana had the right game plan to start things Tuesday night, one that should have provided Indiana with their first win in Champaign since 1999. Indiana, showing no Big Ten road butterflies, outscored the Illini 11-4 in the first 3:47 of the first half.

"I think we came out a little flat. They got the ball inside and kicked it out for jumpers," said Illinois guard Rich McBride. "In the timeout, coach got on us a little bit. We made some adjustments and were able to capitalize."

Illinois outscored the visitors 19-12 in the remaining 16:13 of the opening half.

While the Illini got better, the game never got that pretty.

"It was just an old-fashioned, Big Ten border-war game," Weber said.

IU held Illinois under 40 points until 5:30 remained in the game.

But it was enough to overcome an awful shooting night for Indiana, especially since the Hoosiers didn't reach the 40-point mark themselves until Earl Calloway hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in the game. A.J. Ratliff ended IU's scoring night 11 seconds later with a 3-pointer that provided the final margin.

The Hoosiers were never able to overcome the shooting drought they entered eight minutes into the game, a drought that spelled their doom. With 12:21 left in the opening half Calloway hit a 3 to put IU up 18-11. Besides Mike White's 3-footer 39 seconds before intermission – a basket that knotted things at 23-23 – the Hoosiers wouldn't hit another field goal until five minutes had passed in the second half. The Hoosiers would never lead again.

"I didn't like our identity tonight," Sampson said. "It's not just about offense, I think your attitude about competition carries over into every phase of the game.

"We're the kind of team that if we don't play with a chip on our shoulder and play with an edge we're not very good. I didn't see that tonight."

Sampson didn't like much of what he did see Tuesday, though.

"We have to maximize our ability every night," said IU's coach. "Tonight we played like we were a little bit better than we actually are. And that's why it's going to be good to get back to practice.

"Big game's coming up for us."

Indiana hosts Michigan on Saturday.

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