BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For an extended stretch on Saturday, you could have had a lengthy debate over what was broken more: Twitter or Indiana’s offense against Illinois. It was a winding road, but when the final buzzer sounded, Twitter was back, and the Hoosiers had another Big Ten win.
Thanks to another All-American effort from Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (19-8, 10-6 B1G) came from behind to knock off Illinois (17-9, 8-7 B1G), 71-68. Jackson-Davis had 26 points 12 rebounds, and five blocks in 37 minutes. Miller Kopp also played a major role in the Hoosiers’ victory, contributing 12 points (4/5 threes), three rebounds, a steal, and a team-high +9.
After a wild Northwestern road loss, the Hoosiers returned home to face the Fighting Illini in another Big Ten classic. On Friday night, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that Illinois star Terrence Shannon, who is averaging 17 PPG, would not be available for the contest due to a concussion.
IU and Illinois came out of the gates running with quick possessions and strong transition offenses. Illinois struggled with consistently hitting shots, relying on quick perimeter pull-ups and paint mismatches. The Hoosiers found an advantage close to the basket early as Illinois refused to commit to a double team on Jackson-Davis, aligned with Underwood’s typical approach.
The Hoosiers brought multiple subs into the game early, including Kaleb Banks, who did not see the court the last two contests. Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo, and Malik Reneau all saw the court in the first half as well. Jalen Hood-Schifino and Jackson-Davis got more rest than usual in the early going, as Mike Woodson tried to scale back the playing time for his stars.
IU started picking up fouls quickly during the latter part of the first half, playing a rushed defense that Illinois exploited for a 7-point lead. Matthew Mayer was sensational for Illinois during this stretch, hitting a multitude of threes to extend Illinois’ lead. The Hoosiers relied on paint scoring, but Kopp’s threes energized Assembly Hall. He drilled a couple before the break.
Jackson-Davis continued to solidify his IU legacy by passing Mike Woodson for fifth on the Hoosier’s all-time scoring leaderboard. He had 11 points, three rebounds, and four blocks in the game’s first 20 minutes.
The Hoosiers were trailing by three going into the second half, 38-35. The Hoosiers have only won two games this season after chasing at half.
The second half started slowly as the Illini lead grew to nine. The Hoosiers maintained a strong presence on defense but squandered opportunities down the court missing five of six field goals early and two free throws. Jackson-Davis even missed a bonus free throw that he received as a result of an Illinois lane violation.
With ten minutes remaining, Jackson-Davis led a Hoosier comeback, pulling IU within three. Hood-Schifino splashed a three-pointer, assisted by Reneau. Reneau then picked the ball down low on defense, leading to a Jackson-Davis layup tying the two squads at 56.
With under five minutes remaining, the two teams were trading buckets after each possession. The Hoosiers, however, gave up fouls on four consecutive Illini possessions, leading to Illinois free throws.
After an official review with 1:41 remaining, an out-of-bounds call was given to IU. The game was tied 65-65 when the Illini capitalized on a weak pass by Hood-Schifino. Coleman Hawkins took it the other way for the slam, and the air came out of the building. Hood-Schifino quickly responded, matching the Illini with a jumper and evening up the score once again.
With under a minute in the contest, Kopp stole the basketball and gave IU the opportunity to take a timeout. The Illini fouled Hood-Schifino on a jumper, giving him two free throws which he hit, giving the Hoosiers a 2-point advantage with 27.6 seconds left. Those free throws gave IU their first lead of the second half.
Hood-Schifino fouled Jayden Epps with 16.7 seconds. Epps split the free throws, making it a one-point game. IU would break the ensuing full-court press, and Jackson-Davis finished a massive slam to give the Hoosiers a three-point lead. R.J. Melendez had a chance for a game-tying three but missed, succeeding the Hoosier comeback. Melendez finished 0/6 on the game.
IU is back on the road for two more contests this week, with a trip to East Lansing coming up on Tuesday. The Hoosiers will take on the Michigan State Spartans, in MSU’s first home game since the tragic shooting on Monday. Indiana defeated Michigan State, 82-69, on Jan. 22 in Bloomington. Tip time is scheduled for 9 PM ET on ESPN.
Featured Image: Alex Paul