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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 11:00 pm

Indiana 78, Illinois 68: Quick thoughts

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

How it Happened

BLOOMINGTON — Indiana (15-12, 8-7 Big Ten) got off to a slow start, falling behind 5-0 and 7-3 thanks to several early turnovers and second chances for the Illini. Illinois had four offensive rebounds in the first two minutes and at the under-16 timeout had taken 11 shots to the Hoosiers four.

Devonte Green and Freddie McSwain Jr., the two catalysts of the Hoosiers' recent hot streak, both took long breaks early in the first half as coach Archie Miller called on freshmen Justin Smith and Aljami Durham to provide energy.

The two first-year Hoosiers answered the call, combining for 13 points in the first half and helping erase the early deficit. Indiana went in front for the first time when Durham hit a triple from the right wing and followed with a driving layup to put his team up 19-14. 

The flurry of points came in the middle of a huge 18-2 Indiana run that changed the complexion of the game. The Hoosiers turned a four-point deficit into a 12-point lead in less than seven minutes, holding the Illini scoreless for six of those minutes.

Outside of the freshmen finding their footing, the Hoosier defense was the story of the opening half. Juwan Morgan especially was dominant under the rim. After scoring 28 points in the first meeting between these teams, he struggled to a 2 for 6 performance in the opening half. On the other end, however, he tied a career-high with four blocked shots and grabbed eight total rebounds, frustrating the Illini (12-15, 2-12) around the basket. Illinois didn't even hit many open jumpers when it had them and it shot 32 percent in the opening half as the Hoosiers opened up a 35-25 lead at the break. 

Illinois really ratcheted up the defensive pressure early in the second half, forcing a trio of Hoosier turnovers, two from Green, and slicing the IU lead to just five at 39-34. McSwain kept the Hoosiers in front during this stretch with six points, including a couple of strong finishes inside.

Illinois' Leron Black took over the game in the next few minutes as Indiana continued to have trouble holding on to the ball. Black scored 11 points in the first seven minutes of the half, bringing Illinois within two points of the lead multiple times. A triple from the junior with 14 minutes to play made it 47-45 in favor of the Hoosiers.

Illinois was never able to get over the hump, though. Durham again scored five quick points to push the lead back to eight at 59-51 and, unlike the first time these teams met, the Hoosiers were able to knock down their free throws when the game became a foul fest. Illinois remained within striking distance, but the Hoosiers continued to lead as the second half reached its later stages.

In the final minutes, Durham put an exclamation point on the victory. With two minutes to go, the freshman made a perfect backdoor cut and McSwain hit him with a pass for a two-handed dunk. The play put Indiana in front 73-63 and essentially put the game on ice.

Player of the Game: Juwan Morgan

This was one of Morgan's quieter offensive performances in recent memory, as he finished with just 14 points on 4 for 8 from the field. On defense, however, he was dominant. The junior blocked a career-high five shots and added a season-high four steals, helping disrupt numerous Illinois possessions. Morgan also grabbed 10 rebounds, making it his eighth double-double of the season.

Facts and Figures

The Hoosiers are above .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since Jan. 28, the day they played Purdue and dropped to 5-5 in the conference. ... Illinois was without starting center Michael Finke, who missed his second straight game with a concussion. ... Indiana came in leading the Big Ten in turnover margin at plus-2.5. The Hoosiers had 18 turnovers (after having 18 in the first meeting with the Illini), while Illinois gave it away 12 times. ... Johnson scored 13 points, moving past Ted Kitchel for 26th on the all-time IU scoring list. ... McSwain grabbed six rebounds, giving him 38 over his four starts this season. ... Indiana shot 59 percent from the field, a season-high ... Black led Illinois with 20 points. 

What's Next?

The Hoosiers are back in action Saturday for a matchup with Iowa (12-16, 3-12) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN. The Hoosiers faced Iowa in December at Assembly Hall and won 77-64. Juwan Morgan posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in that contest. The Hawkeyes have lost four in a row, including a 74-59 loss against No. 22 Michigan Wednesday.