CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Coming off a tumultuous, yet energizing home victory Monday night against Maryland — Indiana fell victim to a short turnaround and sloppy play in a 73-71 loss to Illinois on Wednesday.
In the losing effort, Juwan Morgan continued his impressive stretch of play — tallying a game-high 28 points on just 12-of-14 shooting, collecting eight rebounds while fighting through foul trouble.
Here’s our Rapid Reaction:
The Free Throws … Were Not Free:
It’s interesting to compare the recent brands of Indiana basketball throughout the year. Many games came easy, such as Northwestern. Others were up-and-down, yet exciting (Maryland). But there are times where the Hoosiers simply come out flat, undisciplined, or both. Wednesday was an example of that — as IU shot a putrid 16-of-29 from the free-throw line. The Hoosiers had not been a strong free-throw shooting team to begin with (299th entering Wednesday), but this effort reinstated fears following a 12-of-29 performance in November against Howard.
Things weren’t going Indiana’s way against the Illini. Both Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman got themselves into fairly early foul trouble. Robert Johnson was nearly invisible for the majority of the night, hoisting only seven shots. IU head coach Archie Miller was unsure on which hand to go with at point guard — as both Josh Newkirk and Devonte Green provided the Hoosiers with very little stability or offensive spark. If IU was going to win, it would have come in the grind-it-out fashion. The problem with that, is the difficulty in winning close games when a team misses 13 shots at the free-throw line. Many things were against the Hoosiers, but missing the freebies essentially amounted to Illinois’ first Big Ten win of the season.
In the closing seconds, Indiana appeared to make a miraculous comeback after a Juwan Morgan three-point play cut Illinois’ lead to 73-70. A defensive stop later, the Illini chose to foul Devonte Green with eight seconds remaining — who missed the first shot to complete a poor performance at the free-throw line.
One Giant Lost Opportunity:
Despite an incredibly short turnaround on the road, Indiana had a realistic opportunity at improving to 6-3 in the conference against an albeit tough, yet winless team in Illinois. Furthermore, a victory in Champaign would have only added to IU’s momentum prior to Sunday’s showdown with Purdue at Assembly Hall.
With a loss, the Hoosiers slip to 5-4 in Big Ten play and now prepare for a brutal stretch; which includes Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State on the upcoming schedule. The Illini have proved to be a tough out all season — there’s a reason why Illinois has played three overtime games in the Big Ten. But, there’s also many reasons why they haven’t won any of them.