CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – To beat Illinois, coach Archie Miller said Indiana would need to be organized.
The Hoosiers were so organized, they might as well have been marching in formation.
Indiana played one of its best offensive games of the season, shooting 55 percent from the field and getting 20 points and nine rebounds from Juwan Morgan to cruise past the Illini 92-74 in front of an announced crowd of 14,033 on Senior Night at State Farm Center.
Freshman Robert Phinisee added a career-high 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and also had five assists. Justin Smith followed his career game against Michigan State with another solid performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
The Hoosiers (16-14, 7-12 Big Ten) put on an offensive clinic all night, playing with a poise that hasn't always been evident this season.
Indiana turned the ball over just seven times against an Illini (11-19, 7-12) team that thrives on creating takeaways, averaging 16.4 coming in.
“We were able to take our time and we really didn't let (Illinois) speed us up,” Smith said. “Just taking our time and really playing our game and not really allowing what they're doing to affect what we do.”
Point guards Phinisee and Devonte Green were particularly important in keeping the Hoosiers on track offensively. The pair combined for 11 of the team's 17 assists and did not turn the ball over once. Against Illinois' pressure, good decision-making was key.
“There's no plays being called, it's frenetic,” coach Archie Miller said of the Illini's style. “You need your guards to be able to handle the ball. Can your ball-screen actions create some offense for you? I thought they did that.
“There were a lot of assist-looking passes, where guys were taking good shots. We hit the first open man.”
The key run came midway through the first half. After the teams traded baskets for much of the early going, Indiana got red-hot, hitting nine consecutive shots.
The spurt included seven layups, four from Morgan, and turned what had been a close game into a 12-point Hoosiers lead. Indiana never trailed again and cruised down the stretch in the second half.
The 52 points Indiana scored in the first half were the most it had in a first period in Big Ten play this season, 15 more than the previous high against Northwestern on Dec. 1.
The seven layups among those nine consecutive made baskets were indicative of the ease with which the Hoosiers were able to get the ball to the rim most of the night. They scored 52 points in the paint and shot 64 percent on 2-point attempts thanks to aggressiveness and good ball movement.
The win was Indiana's third in a row, continuing its best stretch of basketball in more than two months. It likely keeps the Hoosiers in contention for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth.
“We're playing better than we were,” Miller said, smiling slightly at the understatement. “Hard-fought games, we've been in a lot of them, but our team is in a position right now where we've earned some confidence back.”