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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Illinois 3-pointers doom IU

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 3-point bomb figures prominently into the typical game plan of both IU and Illinois, and the No. 1 Hoosiers’ 74-72 road upset loss against the Illini on Thursday evening was a microcosm of that.

Both teams sank nine 3-point shots with Illinois needing 24 attempts and IU only 17. That long-range efficiency put IU up by double digits, or close to it, for the vast majority of the game.

Yet as the Illini undertook its whirlwind comeback in the final minutes to stun the Hoosiers at the buzzer, it was their persistence with the deep ball that helped bring them back within striking distance.

“They made some threes and got some momentum because we didn’t stay where we needed to defensively,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “That’s what hurt us.”

With 5:49 left, Illinois guard Brandon Paul, who had nine of 21 points on three 3-pointers, sank the third of those shots to cut IU’s lead to 65-59.

Three minutes later, it was guard D.J. Richardson’s turn with a bomb from outside, now cutting the IU lead to five. Richardson led Illinois with 23 points and four 3-pointers.

On the Illini’s next possession, the ball was back in Richardson’s hands, and he once again hit the outside shot. The IU lead was two, the stage set for the stunner at the buzzer.

Crean attributed Richardson’s late shots largely to botched double-teams that left him wide open.

“There’s no question,” Crean said. “We overhelped, and you can’t do that. That’s what it came down to.”

This late flurry of 3-point success by the Illini stood in contrast to earlier developments but in lockstep with Illinois’ season beyond the arc.

Illinois is first in the Big Ten in 3-point shots per game despite having only the eighth-best percentage from long range. The shear volume of shots, roughly 24 per contest, resulted in the high output.

While Illinois’ 3-pointer ultimately helped overtake IU, the Hoosiers’ own consistency from distance was key in establishing their nearly game-long lead. Plagued by turnovers early, senior forward Christian Watford helped keep IU afloat with two of his own deep shots.

Minutes later, senior guard Jordan Hulls, did the same with two long balls. The Hoosiers entered the second half leading 41-29.

In the second half, five players attempted 3-point shots as IU tried to expand its lead into insurmountable territory. Freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell led that effort with two makes on two attempts from deep.

In the end, the Illini’s refusal to bow to the percentages gave them three late bombs and the chance for the upset.

“They made some tough shots down the stretch,” Watford said. “We had a couple mental breakdowns.”

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