Hoosiers Squander Lead Late, Fall to Illini

Bloomington - Three days after digging itself a huge early hole in a blowout loss at Ohio State, Indiana bounced back with a spirited effort, built a double-digit second half lead against Illinois, and then squandered it while falling 66-60 at Assembly Hall.

Bloomington – A bad start on Wednesday for Tom Crean's basketball team gave way to tough-to-take finish Saturday.

Three days after digging itself a huge early hole in a blowout loss at Ohio State, Indiana bounced back with a spirited effort, built a double-digit second half lead against Illinois, and then squandered it while falling 66-60 at Assembly Hall.

Illinois improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten and 11-5 overall, while Indiana slipped to 7-8 and 1-2 in the conference.

Leading 57-48 with 8:28 left, Indiana missed 11 of its final 12 shots from the floor to allow Illinois to claw its way back. Illinois' 7'1" center Mike Tisdale scored 10 of his game-high 27 points during those final 8 ½ minutes as the Illini out-scored the Hoosiers 18-3 down the stretch.

"Tisdale was huge," said Illinois Coach Bruce Weber. "We went to him and he came through for us."

Illinois also got 19 points, nine assists, and only one turnover from point guard Demetri McCamey, who came off the bench for the second straight game.

In addition to Indiana's struggles from the floor, the Hoosiers also missed three critical free throws late - Derek Elston missed two with 4:10 remaining and the game tied, while Christian Watford missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:05 left and Illinois leading 61-60. That – coupled with a huge disparity at the free-throw line and in fouls - was just enough to allow Illinois to escape with the victory.

"We kept our poise and kept chipping away," Weber said. "I told them before (the game), ‘I don't care how much we win by, I'll be happy with a one-point win.'"

While Tisdale led the comeback, Illini freshman D.J. Richardson played a big role late as well. With Indiana clinging to a 60-59 lead, Richardson knocked down a 17-footer with 1:16 left to give Illinois its first lead since the game's opening minutes. Then, after a Tisdale layup pushed the lead to three, Richardson blocked a Watford jumper in the lane with 26 seconds remaining, all but ending Indiana's hopes of a second straight Big Ten home win.

Crean wasn't necessarily pleased with what he saw on the scoreboard when the final horn sounded, but he was encouraged by what he saw from his young basketball team on the floor. After wilting against the Buckeyes on Wednesday, Indiana played with an energy level that was clearly lacking earlier in the week.

"It felt like a fight out there," Crean said. "There have been times in the past in our year and a half here where there was a fight but we weren't necessarily the ones fighting. Tonight we were."

That fight was apparent from the opening tip. Jordan Hulls scored 11 early points to help IU build a 19-9 lead midway through the half. After Hulls left the game with two fouls, Verdell Jones scored six of his game-high 13 points and Daniel Moore knocked down a 3-pointer to help IU extend the lead to as many as 15 in the opening half.

Indiana's lead stood at 13, 41-28, at halftime, setting the stage for Illinois' second half comeback.

The Illini rally was aided by not only the play of Tisdale and McCamey, but also the fact that a host of Hoosiers landed in foul trouble. Tom Pritchard picked up his fourth foul with 15:34 remaining, followed by Devan Dumes at the 13:48 mark in the half. First-time starter Bobby Capobianco, Jeremiah Rivers and Jordan Hulls would eventually pick up their fourth fouls as well, as Indiana was whistled 28 times compared to 17 for Illinois. That led to a 39-18 disparity in free throws attempted, a statistic that Crean questioned without necessarily challenging.

"It's hard for me to fathom a 21 foul shot difference in a game of that nature," Crean said. "But I'm going to chalk it up that we're not demanding enough in the sense of how we drop our shoulder."

Crean will eventually look at the film to see if he has a different take on the free-throw differential, but he does know that being more physical is something that his young team will have to continue to do as it moves forward.

"The bottom line is we have to learn to be more physical," Crean said. "Some of it will come from natural maturity, some of it is going to come from the weight room, some of it is going to come from more off-seasons. But we have to have a fighting spirit, and I'm starting to feel it."

Watford 5-14 0-1 10, Capobianco 1-1 0-0 2, Hulls 4-8 1-2 12, Rivers 3-6 2-4 8, Jones 5-13 3-5 13, Moore 1-1 0-0 3, Pritchard 0-0 0-0 0, Elston 0-1 2-4 2, Dumes 3-9 2-2 10. Totals 22-53 10-18 60.

Davis 1-2 0-2 2, Cole 0-3 1-2 1, Tisdale 7-11 13-14 27, Richardson 5-10 1-2 14, Jordan 0-1 0-0 0, Paul 0-4 1-3 1, Keller 1-3 0-0 2, McCamey 4-12 11-16 19. Totals 18-46 27-39 66.

3-Pointers: Indiana 6-17 (Hulls 3-6, Dumes 2-4, Moore 1-1, Jones 0-4, Watford 0-2), Illinois 3-13 (Richardson 3-6, McCamey 0-4, Cole 0-2, Paul 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 31 (Elston 6), Illinois 38 (Davis 11). Assists: Indiana 10 (Jones 4), Illinois 13 (McCamey 9). Turnovers: Indiana 15, Illinois 11. Blocks: Indiana 3 (Capobianco, Rivers, Elston), Illinois 5 (Cole 2, Tisdale, Richardson, Keller). Steals: Indiana 8, Illinois 9. Officials: Pat Driscoll, David Maracich, Bob Mahre.

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