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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 07, 2017 3:11 pm

Halftime thoughts: Indiana 48, Illinois 29

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON — Indiana has had a well-balanced offensive attack today against Illinois with nine players scoring in the first half, led by Robert Johnson (13 points) and James Blackmon Jr. (eight). A lot of the credit goes to their willingness to make the extra pass.

Defensively, the Hoosiers were able to force the Fighting Illini into several rushed shooting opportunities in the late stages of the shot clock, when there wasn't much ball flow. While the Hoosiers have 13 assists, the Illini only have four. In addition, Indiana has controlled the rebounding margin 19 to 17.

Here are four other main observations at halftime:

1. Blackmon's recovery: Entering tonight, the Hoosiers' best offensive weapon had been shooting 11 for 31 in his last three games. He hasn't been asked to carry the offense today, but he got going with a savvy backdoor cut for Indiana's first points and buried a 3-pointer in transition as part of the team's 15-0 start.

2. Rotations: The Illini didn't score until their 11th possession. Besides shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, who has 12 points, the Illini have struggled to get a step on Indiana's defense, which has shown more energy and more commitment to the game plan.

3. Hill to climb: One of the reasons Illinois has such a big hill to climb in the second half is because their best player, Malcolm Hill, was whistled for three fouls in the game's first four minutes. His third foul came when Johnson drew a charge. Johnson has handled the assignment of defending Hill well. The 6-foot-6 senior has only two points in the eight minutes he's been out there.

4. Easy being Green: Nearing one minute to play in the first half, Devonte Green sank a 3-pointer from the left corner, giving Indiana a 48-27 lead. The team had been without Green the two previous games because of an ankle/foot issue. He's got five points in an active return.