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The Journal Gazette

  • Indiana forward Juwan Morgan shoots a layup during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Illinois in Champaign, Ill., Thursday, March 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Stephen Haas)

Thursday, March 07, 2019 10:20 pm

Indiana beats Illinois, 92-74, third straight win

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois –

How it Happened

After taking a few minutes to collect itself against Illinois' pressure defense, Indiana (16-14, 7-12 Big Ten) put together one of its best offensive halves of the season and maybe its best on that end in all of Big Ten play. The game was close early, but the Hoosiers went in front with an 8-0 run over a 1:19 stretch midway through the half that included an old-fashioned 3-point play from De'Ron Davis and a long 3 from Evan Fitzner on a broken play. The spurt turned a 16-12 deficit into a 20-12 lead and Indiana didn't trail again before halftime.

The key for Indiana was poise on the offensive end. Illinois' defense excels at forcing turnovers, but the Hoosiers gave it away just twice before halftime, frustrating the Illini's desire to get out in transition. In addition to taking care of the ball, the Hoosiers moved it extremely well, putting together maybe its best stretch of passing all season. That helped them get good shots from all over the court and shoot a red-hot 58 percent from the field, including 76 percent from inside the arc. Juwan Morgan, Robert Phinisee and Romeo Langford combined for 29 points in the first half and just six came on 3-pointers. Morgan scored all of his points around the rim on putbacks and nice passes from his teammates, including one particularly pretty dump-down from De'Ron Davis.

The only way Illinois (11-19, 7-12) was able to stay in the game was by getting hot from beyond the arc. The Illini shot 7 for 13 from deep in the first half after coming in at less than 34 percent as a team. Despite that 3-point shooting binge, the Hoosiers led 52-42 at the half.

Indiana didn't let up in the early part of the second half, either. The Hoosiers opened the half with four layups, including two from Morgan, in the first four minutes of the half. They continued to get almost everything they wanted going to the basket. Illinois continued to hang tough on the offensive end, but fell behind by 15 points, 63-48, with 15:36 remaining as Indiana moved closer to a knockout punch.

As the second half wore on the game got a little more tense and somewhat chippy. Davis picked up a technical foul for arguing on a questionable foul call, but two possessions later Illinois big man Adonis De La Rosa picked up a Flagrant 1 foul for hooking Davis on a rebound attempt. All the while, the Hoosiers' lead kept growing and it hit 20 for the first time on a Devonte Green layup with 13:13 left that made it 71-50.

The Hoosiers held Illinois at an arm's length down the stretch, although they weren't quite as sharp as they'd been in the first half. The Fighting Illini cut the deficit to as few as 13 a couple of times, but could never get close enough to really make it a game and Indiana hung on to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive another day.

Player of the Game: Juwan Morgan

Morgan was again the catalyst inside for Indiana, scoring four times on layups late in the first half as the Hoosiers stretched their lead to double digits. He finished with 20 points on 9 for 14 from the field and added nine rebounds, as well as a block. It was his highest point total since a Jan. 6 loss to Michigan, when he had 25. The performance moved him past Steve Green and Joby Wright for 30th on the all-time IU scoring list.

Facts and Figures

It was Senior Night for Illinois at the State Farm Center. ... Indiana swept the season series from the Illini. The Hoosiers also beat Illinois 73-65 on Jan. 3. ... The win was just Indiana's third on the road this season. The Hoosiers finish the season 3-9 in road games. ... Indiana matches its win total from last season with 16. ... Indiana's 52 points in the first half were 15 more than any other first it has had in Big Ten play this season. ... Langford came into the game sixth in the conference and first among freshmen at 16.9 points per game. He scored 10 on 4 for 8 from the field. He scored a career-high 28 against Illinois in the teams' first matchup. ... Illinois came in 22nd in the country in turnovers forced per game at 16.4, but Indiana gave it away just seven times, leading to 10 Illini points. ... Indiana shot 64.4 percent on 2-point attempts. ... The Hoosiers held a 35-27 advantage in rebounding. ... Indiana scored 52 points in the paint. ... Justin Smith had 15 points and seven rebounds for Indiana. ... Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois with 16 points.

What's Next?

The Hoosiers finish their regular-season slate on Sunday at Assembly Hall when they play host to Rutgers (14-15, 7-12) on Senior Day. The game will tip off at noon and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. The Scarlet Knights have split their last six games, including a 66-65 loss to Penn State on Wednesday. They beat Indiana 66-58 in Piscataway, N.J. on Jan. 30.

dsinn@jg.net