It was a familiar story.
Indiana opened the game lethargic, unable to stop visiting Illinois from getting to where they wanted to on the floor and being unable to convert on the offensive end. It was a game that saw the Hoosiers trail for much of the first half, but as Indiana has done multiple times this season, they were able to rally to a 73-65 victory to improve to 3-0 in conference play behind the strong play of star Freshmen Romeo Langford.
The crowd at Assembly Hall was nervous for much of the early game, especially when Illinois took a 25-15 lead with 9:11 to go in the first half. However, Indiana settled into the game as it progressed, improving both their shot selection and their defensive intensity to claw their way back into the game and were able to tie it up heading into halftime. After the break, Indiana came out sharp, led by ten straight points by Langford, and were able to secure an 8-point lead just 5 minutes into the second half and led the rest of the way. Langford played his best game of the season for Indiana, putting up an impressive stat line of 28 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and perhaps most importantly, converting on 11 of his 15 free-throw attempts. Juwan Morgan also had a nice game for Indiana, grabbing a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and though he struggled guarding the bigger Bezhanishvili at times, Morgan was also able to force him into a game-high 5 turnovers.
Though Indiana was able to rally and win the game, Archie Miller’s team still has several areas they need to improve in. However, lets look at the good first. Indiana was able to turn in yet another strong defensive performance, holding Illinois to just .94 points per possession, including forcing the Illini into 21 turnovers. The Hoosiers also had one of their best performances of the season from the free-throw line, converting 25 of their 35 attempts, good for 71.4%, an improvement over their season average of just 64%. Yet the slow starts continue to plague Indiana seemingly every game. Though their recent competition hasn’t proved too dangerous, one must worry about Indiana’s fate down the stretch if they continue to spot early leads to the better teams in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers also continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate, though they were better in that area against the Illini, and still sit at last place in the Big Ten in turnovers per game.
The game was a little closer than expected, but Indiana took care of business and kept their Conference record a perfect 3-0. Things don’t get easier from here for the Hoosiers however, as they now head on the road for 3 of their next 4 contests, starting with Sunday’s match-up against #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines. Indiana took care of business against Illinois, but the team will need to improve to try to beat the elite teams in the Big Ten.