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The Journal Gazette

  • Romeo Langford led all scorers with a career-high 28 points in Indiana's win over Illinois on Thursday night. The freshman had 19 in the second half. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Thursday, January 03, 2019 9:30 pm

No. 21 Indiana defeats Illinois, 73-65, seventh straight win

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette


How it Happened

The first few minutes of the game were marked by frantic energy on both sides and hot shooting. About five minutes into the game, both teams were above 55 percent from the field and shots were falling at a rapid rate. As predicted, Indiana got plenty of easy shots inside, including a couple of easy baskets on Romeo Langford layups. Underdog Illinois got plenty of easy shots of its own, however, and it was 13-13 at the 14:25 mark after Justin Smith tipped in his own miss.

After the early Indiana flurry, however, the Hoosiers went cold from the field. There was too much one-on-one basketball and ill-advised shots against a swarming Illinois defense. Indiana went scoreless for a 4:32 stretch, missing several open shots even when it moved the ball well. The Illini took advantage and embarked on 10-0 run to take a commanding lead midway through the half. Illinois dominated the paint offensively during this stretch, getting the ball inside for three layups in a row. Da'Monte Williams completed the spurt with a 3-pointer from the right wing to give his team a 10-point lead.

That was the low point for Indiana, a fact the crowd recognized. The Assembly Hall faithful gave the team a standing ovation, hoping to spur a comeback and it seemed to work. Indiana fed on the crowd's energy and climbed back into the game with a series of shots close to the basket, including several from Langford, and a renewed intensity on defense. Indiana forced two shot-clock violations in the final five minutes of the first half and forced 11 turnovers overall in the half. As the buzzer sounded to end the half, forward Justin Smith got a nifty tip-in to fall, knotting the score at 32 as the teams went to the locker room.

The first four minutes of the second half belonged to Langford. The freshman phenom exploded for eight straight points, hitting a jumper, then a fast-break layup, then leaning layup in traffic plus a foul. When he sank the free throw, it was an 8-0 Indiana run to open the half and the Hoosiers led 40-32. Meanwhile on defense, the Hoosiers forced a pair of shot-clock violations in the first minutes of the second, including one ended by a huge block from Indiana's Smith. At the under-16 timeout, the Hoosiers had Illinois reeling.

Th Illini never really recovered from that flurry. They stayed within striking distance most of the second half, but Indiana was able to remain comfortably in front and continue increasing its lead. When Juwan Morgan powered through the Illinois front line for a layup, the Hoosiers led 55-40 with 8:31 left. 

Illinois made one final run near the 3-minute mark. The visitors went on an 8-0 run that included a 10-second violation against Indiana for failing to get across halfcourt. A layup around Morgan with 2:29 left sliced the Hoosiers' lead to four at 62-58 and put Indiana in real danger for the first time in the second half. 

Indiana responded, however. Al Durham knocked down a pair of free throws and Langford drove hard to the hoop before dishing to Smith for a layup and an 8-point lead. That was the clincher for the Hoosiers and they hung on for an important home win.

Player of the Game: Romeo Langford

Langford came in sixth in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.5 points per game and topped his average with a career-high 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. His eight straight points to open the second half were decisive and he added six rebounds and three assists. He was aggressive going to the hoop, getting nearly all of his points around the rim and shooting 15 free throws. It was his sixth 20-point performance of the season.

Facts and Figures

Indiana improved to 10-0 at Assembly Hall. ... The win is the Hoosiers' seventh in a row since its loss to Duke. ... Indiana came into the game No. 2 in the country in field goal percentage at 52.9 percent and shot 48 percent from the field. ... Illinois came in 10th in the country in turnovers forced per game at 18.3 and Indiana turned the ball over 15 times. The Hoosiers also forced 21 turnovers and held a 22-10 advantage in points off TOs. Indiana forced a program record six shot-clock violations. ... Morgan came in leading the conference in field goal percentage at 69.3 percent, but went 4 for 9 (44 percent) from the field. Morgan's first-half block gave him 104 for his career, tying him with Kirk Haston for No. 10 on the all-time Indiana list. The senior had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Hoosiers continued to be without freshman point guard Robert Phinisee, who has not practiced since suffering a head injury against Central Arkansas. ... Freshman Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois with 20 points.

What's Next?

The Hoosiers are back in action Sunday, when they travel to Ann Arbor to No. 2 Michigan (14-0, 3-0) at Crisler Stadium. The game will tip off at 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS. The Wolverines are coming off a victory over Penn State on Thursday and already boast victories over defending champion Villanova, North Carolina and Purdue, all of which were ranked at the time. It will be Indiana's third matchup against a Top 25 team this season after a win over Marquette and a loss to Duke.