Indiana had very little room for error in this one. A road game in Champaign against a much-improved Illinois team was far from an easy win, and the Hoosiers needed the win desperately.
So, they went out and dominated the game from start to finish.
Indiana put together their best offensive performance of the season, racking up 92 points on a season-high 1.38 points per possession, along with recording just 7 turnovers against an Illini team that leads the Big Ten in turnover rate. The Hoosiers had five different players finish in double-figures, with Juwan Morgan leading the way with 20.
Particularly, much of the credit needs to go to Rob Phinisee. Phinisee had arguably the best game of his career, recording 17 points to go with 5 assists and 0 turnovers. Though just a freshman, Phinisee looked like an upperclassman for much of the night, keeping the Indiana offense under control and finding the open man. Justin Smith also carried over his strong play against Michigan State into this one, finishing with 15 points and 7 rebounds.
The Hoosiers also got some much-needed production off the bench, with Devonte Green leading the way with 11 points, 6 assists, and perhaps most importantly, 0 turnovers in 26 minutes of action. De’Ron Davis also gave the Hoosiers good minutes on the inside, scoring 9 points and dishing out 3 assists in just 15 minutes of play.
Defensively, Indiana wasn’t as sharp, but they got enough stops to control the game. Indiana allowed the Illini to shoot 50.0% from the field along with 47.6% from behind the arc. That could be cause for concern as Indiana moves on to better competition, but at this point, the only thing that matters for Indiana is winning the next game in front of them.
Indiana is very clearly a different team than what they were just a few short weeks ago. Their season was spiraling out of control, and now Indiana has seemingly turned a corner and put themselves back into the conversation for a tournament berth. The Hoosiers will still have work to do on that front, however, with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights visiting Bloomington on Sunday for a must-win contest for Indiana’s tournament hopes. With how Indiana has played recently, there is little reason to doubt that the team will come out prepared.
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