Indiana Daily Student

IU survives game of runs to beat Illinois

Junior guard Kevin Yogi Ferrell takes a shot during the game against Illinois Sunday at the State Farm Center.
Junior guard Kevin Yogi Ferrell takes a shot during the game against Illinois Sunday at the State Farm Center.

By Sam Beishuizen

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois Coach John Groce called it “ridiculous.” IU Coach Tom Crean said it was ?“entertaining.”

The word choice showed two sides of a game of runs in an 80-74 IU win Sunday.

IU overcame 14-3, 11-0 and 21-2 scoring runs to defeat Illinois at the State Farm Center for just the second time since 2000.

“That was a great battle,” Crean said. “We got better this week (at practice) and we brought it to the game.”

IU’s offense appeared to be a completely different team than one that lost to Michigan State two weeks earlier.

The ball was constantly moving and changing hands. The Hoosiers’ guards would penetrate into the paint and kick out to open shooters for high percentage looks to shoot 48.2 percent from the floor.

There were far more players cutting to the basket and trying to attack than there were players standing waiting for plays to be made.

Crean said the flowing offense was a product of what the team had been practicing.

The last bit of film on Illinois that he showed his players just before pregame meetings was tape emphasizing how Illinois’ defense strips at the ball. How those strips create turnovers comes simply from being active.

The Illini did force nine Hoosier turnovers but had 10 of their own. The number one key, Crean said, was moving the ball one dribble sooner rather than one dribble later.

As simple as it sounds, Crean said that was all it took.

“The bottom line is we moved the ball,” Crean said. “And when we move the ball quickly, really good things happen.”

Sophomore forward Troy Williams and freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. led the way for IU, each scoring 21 points. However, what most impressed Crean was the way they changed the game beyond the final score.

Williams hauled in a game-high nine rebounds. Blackmon wasn’t far behind, grabbing seven of his own and dishing out two assists.

“Those two played 94-foot games,” Crean said. “Because they defended. They were very good offensively, but they moved the ball. That’s the way we have to play. Troy and James right there showed the kind of complete games those guys are trying to develop.”

Junior guard Nick Zeisloft credited communication. As the coaching staff shouted out plays, the players on the court and ones on the bench were there to echo the calls back.

“When things get tough on the road at home, you need your brothers out there,” Zeisloft said. “You’ve got to band together and fight and just communicate with each other out there because that’s what’s going to get you back in the game.”

The loss for Illinois was yet another game that seemingly slipped away.

The Illini led Oregon by four with 73 seconds left before losing. They led Michigan by eight with eight minutes to play before losing.

Sunday, they led IU by five with 2:50 left before again seeing the lead evaporate.

Like IU’s previous four Big Ten wins, Sunday’s was yet another decided by two possessions or less. This time, when the game teetered in the balance, it was a 15-5 run over the last five minutes that clinched another win.

“Just the up and down runs,” Williams said, “we got the last run.”

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Recap.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 Indiana Daily Student