Bloomington- When the first half ended Sunday, Indiana was facing a 17-point deficit. The Hoosiers used an efficient second half to close down the lead, but ultimately fell short to the Illini, 65-52.
While the Illini shot 63 percent in the first half, Indiana shot just 27.3 percent. In the second half, Indiana's shooting was vastly improved, as they made 12 of 22 shots, good for 54.5 percent. The Hoosiers used a 23-10 run to cut into the deficit, during which the crowd at Assembly Hall got into the game and seemingly willed their team back into the contest.
"I give kudos to the fans here, to sell this place out…that was one of our goals, to keep [the crowd] quiet. We got ‘em into it a little bit in the second half and that gave them a nice spark. True fans are there, win or lose, and they are truly showing a special face," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.
The Assembly Hall fans got loud at several points in the second half, like when Matt Roth hit a three from the corner and was fouled, or when Malik Story went coast-to-coast while weaving in and out of Illini defenders for a layup that got Indiana within six with less than seven minutes remaining.
Each time the Hoosiers got close, however, Illinois guard Chester Frazier hit a big shot to stop the bleeding.
"I gotta give him credit. He got a little shook, but he played like a senior," Weber said.
"With them they have so many different players that can make plays," said Tom Crean.
While the Hoosiers dropped their third straight, the players certainly noticed the atmosphere in Assembly Hall.
Roth hit two 3-pointers early in the second half to help IU get back into the game, and he certainly felt the crowd. "Once we got things going in the second half, it was unreal. You don't realize what 17,000 [people] sounds like until you're out here playing for yourself. You can sit in the stands and it doesn't even compare to what you're seeing when you're out there on the court," he said.
Verdell Jones thought the crowd was magical. "Their magic came alive again tonight. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, but for a good ten minutes there it really sparked us and gave us momentum," he said.
Crean seemingly can't get enough of the fans at Indiana. "That was an incredible place (today). I know my energy was raised. It was high-level in that building," he said.
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