Thursday, January 03, 2019 8:10 pm
Halftime: No. 21 Indiana 32, Illinois 32
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
BLOOMINGTON – The key to the game for Indiana was supposed to be limiting turnovers. Do that, and the Hoosiers would be able to penetrate against the Illinois defense. Indiana has turned the ball over eight times, but it has also surprisingly struggled to knock down shots and finds itself in a fight, tied at the half against the 4-9 Illini. It could have been a lot worse, with an Indiana deficit reaching as many as 10 midway through the half, but a late rally got the Hoosiers back in the game and brought energy back to Assembly Hall.
Early in the game, the Hoosiers got plenty of shots near the baskets, as I thought they would. Twice in the first few minutes, Romeo Langford beat his man off the dribble and found little resistance on his way to easy layups. The pick-and-roll game with Devonte Green and Juwan Morgan was also effective in getting open looks and the Hoosiers were shooting close to 60 percent in the first five minutes.
As the half wore on, however, Indiana lost its edge offensively and began going one-on-one too often. Green especially struggled in this area, dribbling too much and trying to make plays against numbers. The bigger issue for the Hoosiers was that they missed open shots even when they did move the ball well. For a team that came in second in the nation in field goal percentage, that isn't a problem that usually manifests itself. Tonight, it has, and the Hoosiers are hitting only 46 percent from the field at the halftime. The good news for Indiana is that it can reverse that trend relatively quickly. If a couple of 3-pointers go down in the first few minutes of the second half, the floodgates could open.
Indiana has been little better on defense. The Hoosiers had plenty of energy in on-ball guarding in the first few minutes, but that went away later in the half, leading to open looks for Illinois. The Illini have not been a good shooting team this season, but are hitting 54 percent at the break. They, too, are missing some open looks on the outside, but that has been their M.O. for much of the season. What's more worrying for Indiana is the numerous easy looks Illinois has gotten at the rim, which helped it build a double-digit lead. Coach Archie Miller was clearly upset with the defensive effort at times in the first half and I'm sure we'll hear about it in the postgame, even if the Hoosiers come back and win.
Illinois came into this game 4-9 and losers of six of its last seven, but the Illini are clearly motivated and came into Assembly Hall with upset on their mind. Welcome back to Big Ten basketball.