WHAT HAPPENED: No. 1 Indiana blew a 10-point lead in the last 4:21 and Illinois senior forward Tyler Griffey scored a layup off an inbound play with 0.9 seconds to go to give the Fighting Illini a 74-72 win over the Hoosiers and inciting a court-storming on the Champaign, Ill., version of Assembly Hall.
Illinois outscored Indiana 15-3 in the last 4:21. The Hoosiers were still up 70-68 with three minutes to go, but Illinois senior guard D.J. Richardson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then a step-back, fadeaway jumper to tie the game 70-70 with 1:19 to go. IU junior guard Victor Oladipo gave the Hoosiers the lead back with a driving layup with 50 seconds to go, but Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul tied it again with two free throws with 37.5 seconds left. IU tried to hold for the last shot and Oladipo started a drive for the win, but lost the ball on the way. He got back in transition and swatted an attempted layup from Richardson far out of bounds.
However, on the inbound play, the Fighting Illini set a screen beyond the 3-point line at the right elbow, senior forward Christian Watford switched onto the screener, but no one followed Griffey as he made a curl cut right at the basket. Paul found him right in front of he hoop for an easy layup just before the buzzer.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Griffey’s game-winning layup was just part of an extremely strong night for the senior. He knocked down a pair of critical 3-pointers and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Paul and Richardson, though, got the Illini back in the game. Richardson finished with 23 points, knocking down eight of 15 shots and four of eight 3-pointers, that included his personal 8-0 run to tie the game with 1:19 to go. Richardson also had three steals, and was a big part of the reason for Indiana’s 14 turnovers.
Paul also had a strong outing, scoring 21 points, making six of 14 field goals and three of seven 3-pointers. He also had three assists and two steals.
IU sophomore center Cody Zeller finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and two assists. He was 4-for-6 from the field. Junior swingman Will Sheehey scored 13 points, senior forward Christian Watford had 12 points and eight rebounds, but also had six turnovers. Senior guard Jordan Hulls had 11 points. Oladipo had nine points and five assists, though he shot just 3-for-7, and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell hit a pair of 3-pointers, making 3’s for the first time since Dec. 1.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana shot a better percentage from the field than Illinois, a better percentage from the 3-point arc, and a better percentage at the free throw line. The Hoosiers also won the rebounding battle. But they lost the game. The biggest reason was turnovers.
Indiana gave the ball away 14 times on Thursday, and Illinois capitalized an almost all of the opportunities that allowed. Illinois scored 28 points off turnovers, a season-high for an Indiana opponent, to the Hoosiers’ 16.
The Illini might have shot a lower percentage than the Hoosiers across the board, but because of those turnovers, Illinois had more attempts and as many makes. And Griffey’s layup gave them one more field goal than the Hoosiers. They were 26-for-58 from the field, 9-for-24 from beyond the 3-point arc and 13-for-15 for the line while Indiana was 25-for-50 from the field, 9-for-17 from beyond the arc and 13-for-14 at the line.
The 3-pointers got the Illini back in the game. Illinois stroked five in the second half including three in the last seven minutes that were critical to the comeback. IU coach Tom Crean said the problem was over-helping on drives and post-ups and leaving shooters in the corners where Indiana knew full well the Illini were dangerous. That allowed Illinois to get back in the game after it had been left for dead.
Also, Will Sheehey’s technical with 1:27 left in the first half, which led to four points for Illinois, didn’t help.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Obviously, it means that the Hoosiers become the fifth No. 1 team to fall in the last five weeks. How far they go down is tough to tell, considering that Florida and Kansas already lost this week.
The bigger implications of the loss are its effect on Indiana’s hopes for a Big Ten title. The Hoosiers came into the game alone atop the conference at 8-1. At 8-2, they are in a tie with Michigan and Michigan State atop the league and a game up on Ohio State and Wisconsin at 7-3. Indiana’s schedule is backloaded, and the Hoosiers still have to play at Ohio State, at Michigan State, at Minnesota and at Michigan. Losing to Illinois gives the Hoosiers a lot less margin for error in those games. It also means Indiana has to rebound quickly before going to Ohio State on Sunday.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“We didn’t put them away. We had our opportunities. That’s really what the bottom line was. We broke some coverages. We let some old habits kick in where we over-helped rather than staying committed to the corners. That’s where they hit us. When you’re going against great talent, which this league is full of, you’ve gotta stay committed to it for 40 minutes. You’ve gotta keep your chest in front of the ball. You’ve gotta keep your communication high. You’ve gotta have that commitment to what makes you good, which for us is early help, early recovery, and understanding what their strengths are, which is their 3-point shooting.”
“The end of the game was a broken play for them. We were not gonna give them a chance to set up and win the game on a lob. They were out of timeouts, we had two. I wouldn’t change that for a second, looking back and calling a timeout there. We just didn’t communicate, didn’t communicate a switch there at the end. At the end of the game offensively, we didn’t stay with what we needed to have. We wanted to make it a one-possession game. We did not want to call a timeout, they’re very good on side out of bounds, defending that. We wanted to keep the game in movement, and if we didn’t get what we wanted, then we wanted something coming down the middle of the floor We went at the right time, but we didn’t keep the game in movement enough. That didn’t do it. They made some 3’s and they got momentum because we didn’t stay where we needed to defensively.”
“When we turn the ball over, we’re not very good. The biggest difference in this game tonight is 28 points off turnovers to our 16. … The turnovers we’re making, there’s no defense for that. Our guys were ready, they were prepared, they respect Illinois. There’s no doubt about that. There is no overlooking any of that. We just turned the ball over, we didn’t stay committed to what we wanted to do at the end of the game.”
“We turned the ball over too much, didn’t hit open shots didn’t stick to the game plan.”
“It’s always frustrating losing in this league. It’s a tough way to lose anyway.”
“We’re not rotating far enough. It’s too much overhelp when it’s not needed. That’s a big reason they had open 3’s.”
“It was me and Yogi. There was a mix-up. It was a busted play and they got a layup.”
“It’s a tough one. it’s definitely a tough pill to swallow. You just gotta learn from it. Losses like this, you can’t do nothing about it now. You just gotta go forward and learn from it, look at the film and see what we didn’t do right. But we know we let one get away from us.”
“A lot of them were on us. Just careless with the basketball, not being locked in here and there. We’ll get it corrected.”