Indiana guard Romeo Langford (0) moves the ball under pressure from Illinois center Adonis De La Rosa (12) and guard Alan Griffin (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Champaign, Ill., Thursday, March 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen Haas)
Thursday, March 07, 2019 9:00 pm
Halftime: Indiana 52, Illinois 42
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – For a pair of teams that have struggled offensively this season, the first half got off to a high-scoring start, with both teams jacking up quick shots and doing a good job taking care of the ball in the early going.
Illinois' pressure defense hinges on forcing turnovers, but the Hoosiers have done a solid job avoiding errors, giving the ball away just twice in the first half. In the first few minutes, the Hoosiers struggled to get into the paint as the Illini's defense swarmed the perimeter, but eventually the ball started going to Romeo Langford with regularity and he made things happen, getting into the paint repeatedly and scoring nine points in the half. He had 28 the first time these teams met and his aggressiveness will be key tonight.
Of course, Illinois' defense isn't designed to stop drivers getting to the basket; it's designed to stop 3-point shooting. In that area, the Illini excelled, especially early. Indiana missed its first six 3s until Evan Fitzner drilled a wide-open one on a broken play more than eight minutes into the game. The Hoosiers shot 35 percent on 3s in the first half and a blistering 76 percent on 2-point attempts, which is a pretty good illustration of what Illinois is trying to do. Indiana is in front because its taken care of the ball and not thrown the ball away. The Hoosiers didn't turn it over until 14 minutes into the half.
On the flip side, Illinois has been able to remain in the game because of some uncharacteristically solid outside shooting of its own. The Illini shoot just 33.9 percent from beyond the arc as a team, but are 7 for 13 at halftime despite some solid defense from Indiana. In fact, the Hoosiers have been solid in most areas in the first half. They've brought energy on offense and defense, been crisp with the basketball, run good offensive sets and battled on defense. They haven't been perfect, but there hasn't been any kind of letdown after the victory against Michigan State on Saturday.
Archie Miller said the key to victory against the Illini's pressure and energy would be remaining organized. Though that hasn't always been Indiana's strong suit this season, the Hoosiers have looked like a together, efficient basketball team. If the Illini hadn't gotten hot from beyond the arc, this might be a blowout. It's a mature Indiana team on the court so far tonight, which hasn't been true all the time this season.