CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – Armaan Franklin scored a career-high 23 points, but Ayo Dosunmu had 30 on 11-for-17 shooting for Illinois and the Fighting Illini held serve at the State Farm Center, beating Indiana 69-60 today. The Hoosiers drop to 5-4, 0-2 in Big Ten play.
- Indiana's defense returned: The Hoosiers have been an outstanding defensive team most of the season, but they turned in an extremely lackluster performance against Northwestern on Wednesday. Encouragingly for Indiana, that seems to have been a one-game blip, rather than a troubling trend. The Hoosiers turned up the defensive intensity against one of the best offenses in the country today and held Illinois to 44% shooting, keeping the hosts 20 points below their season average. The defensive intensity seemed to stem from Jackson-Davis, who dove on the ground for a loose ball on the game's first possession, picked up a weak-side block on the second and generally seemed locked in on that end of the floor. It was impressive leadership from the sophomore. That's the type of defensive performance that should have been good enough to win, but the offense just wasn't good enough to put them over the top, which might end up being a running theme this season if something doesn't change.
- The droughts are killing Indiana: At this point, it's obvious that Indiana's offense is what could hold this team back from reaching its goals. It's frustrating because there are times when it looks like the Hoosiers have the makings of an efficient, if not explosive, offensive team. They look to push the ball up the floor, they have a go-to scorer, they have a secondary scorer on the perimeter (Franklin has been so important in that regard) and they're good enough on defense to create opportunities off of turnovers. But there are just times in the half-court when Indiana just doesn't look like it's ever played offense before. The offense will be playing reasonably well and then inexplicably there will be a 3-4 minute stretch when cutting almost stops, dribbling increases and the ball just moves around the perimeter for 25 seconds until someone (usually Jackson-Davis) tries to make something happen one-on-one at the end of the shot clock. That leads to long field goal droughts, like the one Indiana had today in which it did not make a basket for 5:14 near the end of the first half as Illinois erased an early IU lead and went in front and the 4:05 scoreless stretch in the second half that saw Illinois rip off 14 straight points. Those cold stretches are going to cost games and Indiana needs to find a way to shorten them if it can't eliminate them entirely.
- More players, still not enough depth: Indiana coach Archie Miller talked after the Northwestern game about getting his stars some more rest by lengthening his bench and playing more players. He did that today, but it's apparent that Indiana is still mostly lost without Trayce Jackson-Davis on the floor. Freshmen Khristian Lander (six minutes), Anthony Leal (five) and Jordan Geronimo (four) all played important minutes, but none of them are really ready to be rotation players yet it seems. They each had some good moments – especially a corner 3 from Geronimo in the second half – but they aren't completely comfortable on defense yet and it helped Illinois get some open looks. With Jackson-Davis on the bench for 4:01 in the second half with three fouls, the Hoosiers were outscored 14-9 and Illinois took the lead. Indiana needs to find more production from its bench.
Player of the Game: Armaan Franklin
The only reason this game was remotely close was Franklin, who continues to be Indiana's best offensive guard by a wide margin. He scored 20 points for the second time in three games and went 5 for 6 from beyond the arc. In his last four games, he is 17 for 26 (65.3%) on 3-pointers and has made at least five three times. The sophomore guard also had two rebounds and two steasl. At times, he was almost all of Indiana's offense.
This was the first time Indiana played on Dec. 26 since 1986. ... Illinois came into the game No. 6 nationally in average rebounding margin at plus-14. The Fighting Illini outrebounded Indiana 40-28. ... The Hoosiers came in leading the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense at 28.6%. Illinois shot 7 of 20 (35%) from beyond the arc. ... Indiana turned the ball over eight times. It was the first time in seven games the Hoosiers have turned the ball over fewer than 13 times. ... Indiana is 0-2 in true road games this season. ... Indiana freshman Trey Galloway made his first collegiate start, getting the nod over junior Rob Phinisee. Galloway had four points on, four rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes. ... Indiana is 0-3 against top 25 opponents this season. ... The Illini's 29 first-half points were the fewest Illinois has scored in a first half this season. ... A technical foul was assessed against IU coach Archie Miller in the second half. ... Jackson-Davis had just 11 points on 3 for 13 from the field. He scored only three points in the second half.
Indiana is back in action Wednesday for its final game of 2020, taking on Penn State (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at Assembly Hall. The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Penn State, playing under interim coach Jim Ferry after Pat Chambers resigned shortly before the season, has lost two in a row, including a 98-81 loss to Illinois in its most recent game Wednesday. The Nittany Lions have a 75-55 win over then-No. 15 Virginia Tech under their belt, the Hokies' only loss of the season.