Game MVP - Eric Gordon. Sure he struggled through a 3-for-13 shooting effort and committed seven of IU's 15 turnovers. But considering the environment as well as his first-half struggles, he ultimately quieted his critics by bouncing back in a big way after his dismal start. Gordon followed up his one-point first half with 17 points in the second half, helping the Hoosiers erase a 12-point deficit. He banked in a 25-foot 3-pointer with :24.7 remaining in regulation that sent the game into overtime, and earned 10 trips to the free-throw line in the second half to make up for his wayward shot. While his 19-point outing was far from his best game of the season, he showed off plenty of grit and fortitude in the midst of an environment that ranged from rowdy to ruthless, and the Hoosiers couldn't have bounced back late without his play.
Biggest Surprise… The re-emergence of Jordan Crawford. The freshman guard came up big, scoring 18 points of the bench, including four 3-pointers. His shot selection can still be a head scratcher at times, but his two 3-pointers in the first overtime nearly handed the Hoosiers the win in the first overtime. One thing Crawford doesn't appear to lack is confidence, which came in handy on the road in the most hostile environment IU should face all year. He doesn't shy away from the moment or big shots, and he proved once again he's capable of delivering.
What I Found Most Impressive… The Hoosiers' ability to overcome the 12-point second-half deficit. Illinois has played arguably its two best games of the season against the Hoosiers and appeared to have the Hoosiers down-and-out Thursday night. Illini guard Demtri McCamey hit a pair of 3-pointers and Shaun Pruitt scored on a pair of point-blank looks during a 10-0 run that gave Illinois a 42-30 lead 3 ½ minutes into the second half. D.J. White also picked up his third foul during that stretch, and all signs pointed to the Hoosiers folding. But spurred by a second-half resurgence by Gordon, Indiana rebounded and gutted out a must-have victory in their pursuit of a Big Ten title.
What I Found Most Concerning… While Indiana has every reason to celebrate its victory, it still came against a sub-.500 Illini team. If it weren't for a banked 28-foot 3-pointer and a trio of missed free throws by Pruitt, the Hoosiers would have suffered their third loss in their last four games. Indiana boasts a gaudy 19-3 record and stands at 8-1 in the Big Ten, but it still lacks a victory against a team that received even a single vote in this week's AP college basketball poll. The Hoosiers have only one win over a team ranked in Sagarin's top 50 (Minnesota, No. 48), and all of its Big Ten victories have come against teams that have sub-500 marks in league play. Considering IU's next four foes have a combined mark of 32-7 in the Big Ten, there's still plenty of reason to question exactly how good the Hoosiers actually are. Everyone figures to know the answer to that question in two weeks.
Turning Point: There were too many twists and turns in this contest to keep track of, but Indiana's ability to keep the game from getting out of hand early in the second half gave Kelvin Sampson's team a chance to ultimately send the game to overtime and eventually win for the first time in seven tries in Champaign. Kyle Taber gathered an errant Gordon pass and scored on a layup to end Illinois' 10-0 run and cut into Illinois' 12 point lead, and Jamarcus Ellis followed with a baseline jumper to get the margin back to single digits. After a Trent Meachum 3-pointer extended the margin back to 10 minutes later, Ellis answered with a 3-pointer of his own, and a D.J. White fastbreak layup and a couple of Gordon free throws whittled to lead to five. The game obviously wasn't decided until Armon Bassett scored 11 points in the second overtime period, but it was the Hoosiers' second-half resiliency that gave them a chance to get to the extra periods.
"It wasn't just playing against Eric Gordon, it was playing against the whole Indiana team. They're one of the top teams in the country. If you're not pumped to play one of the top 15, top 10 teams in the country, then you shouldn't be playing college basketball." – Illinois guard Calvin Brock
"The thing I liked about halftime, the coaches are across the hall, and we met for 3-4 minutes and talked about if we were going to do anything different. I walked into the players' locker room, and I heard D.J., Armon, Jamarcus, Lance, there was about 4-5 guys all coaching E.J., telling him to just slow down." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson
"(Gordon) probably was pressing a little bit. I could tell. He was a step faster. But I thought in the second half, he played like a man." – Sampson
"I heard the stuff during warm-ups, but once the game started, I just heard the noise. I couldn't really make out what they were saying…we talked about this with our team. There is a 94-foot slab of rectangular wood out there. The game was going to be won on the floor." – Sampson
"(on Frazier's bump) I didn't think it was anything malicious. Chester is a tough kid, plays really, really hard. I don't think he was trying to do anything hyper-kinetic. He was hyped. He was just excited." – Sampson
"I feel bad for Shaun. I thought he gave us a pretty good effort. D.J. is very good and he battled him inside. It's a shame for him and for our kids he couldn't get one of the free throws down." – Illinois Coach Bruce Weber
"Crawford has made big shots. We talked to our kids about it – he's either very hot or very cold. You think about it, they penetrate at their place, they throw a bad pass and it gets deflected and it goes right to Bassett and he makes a 3. Today, EJ drives, he's losing the ball, kicks it off his knee, it goes right to Crawford and he makes the 3. Sometimes the balls don't bounce your way. To their credit, they made the shots when it counted." – Weber
"Our kids really respect EJ and how good of a player he is. He's a special player. About as good a freshman kid in my 20-some years in the Big Ten." - Weber
Upon Further Review - Illinois
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