Fighting Illini steal another victory in Big Ten play
FINAL: Illinois 74, Indiana 72
February 7, 2013
CHAMPAIGN – Coming into tonight’s contest everything seems to be clicking for the Indiana Hoosiers (20-3, 8-2), as they reclaimed the country’s No. 1 ranking behind three impressive wins last week, and they were hoping to open up to 5-0 on the road in Big Ten and avoided a 10th loss in Champaign, but that wasn’t the case tonight.
As the home team, Fighting Illini (16-8, 3-7), continue their winning ways at home against the Hoosiers with a 74-42 victory.
With .9 seconds, senior forward Tyler Griffey made the easiest, yet biggest shot maybe of his career to seal the win. Griffey left defenders Cody Zeller and Christian Watford behind on an inbounds play from the baseline, took the pass from Brandon Paul and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater for the Illini.
”I just made a simple curl cut and left two guys behind me, and Brandon got off a heck of a pass,” he said. ”Zeller and Watford were both right in front of me and just kind of stayed there.”
Coming down the stretch, Indiana was in charge until Illinois put together a run to take and then retake the lead.
On top of it all, 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu fouled out with just under 5 minutes to play, Indiana looked totally in control. Egwu is the only Illini player with the size to realistically match up with the 7-0 Zeller, but size wasn’t what the Illini needed, they needed scoring….
Watford made two free throws after Egwu’s fifth foul and, at 69-59, the Illini looked done. But with the clock under 3 minutes, DJ Richardson went on a run of his own, first burying consecutive 3-pointers and then hitting a midrange jumper on the run to tie the game at 70 with 1:17 to play. Victor Oladipo’s layup put the Hoosiers back on top with 50 seconds left, but Paul answered with two free throws, the first banked in, to tie the score again at 72.
With the clock under 30 seconds, Indiana had the ball for what would have been a last shot but Oladipo fumbled the ball. Richardson picked it up and sprinted down court. Oladipo slapped Richardson’s layup out of bounds to set up the final play – .9 on the clock, and well, bad defense and lack communication on Indiana’s part.
”We didn’t communicate,” coach Crean said after the game. ”They’re very deserving of the win, they never gave in,” he added, but he qualified that with, ”We didn’t put them away when we had the opportunities. I know this, when we turn the ball over we’re not very good and the biggest difference tonight was 28 points off turnovers to our 16.”
Coach Groce credited Richardson for sparking the comeback.
”I thought he was absolutely terrific on both ends of the floor,” Groce said. ”He battled, he fought.”
Indiana’s loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. For the Illini, the win means a move out of 10th in the 12-team conference up into a ninth-place tie with Iowa. More importantly, it’s a potential lifeline for an Illini team that still has to face No. 18 Minnesota on the road Sunday (Big Ten Network) and had been watching its season slip away. Indiana travels to Ohio to take on Big Ten foe Ohio State Sunday afternoon (CBS)
“I can’t answer that. I’m not sure,” Crean said. ”I just know that these games are 40-minute games. We played at a high level for most of the game.”
Richardson had 23 points for Illinois, Brandon Paul had 21 and Griffey finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Zeller led Indiana with 14 points, while Will Sheehey had 13, Watford 12 and Jordan Hulls 11.
Indiana shot 50 percent from the field (25 of 50), 52.9 percent from 3-point range (9 of 17) and 93 percent from the free throw line (13 of 14). The Hoosiers led by an 8- to 10-point margin for most of the second half.
”It was good to get back to having that toughness and togetherness and trust that we needed,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
FUN FACT: Illinois hadn’t beaten a No. 1 team since a 2004 win over Wake Forest.
FUN FACT: No. 1 Indiana on Thursday night, the fifth straight week the nation’s top-ranked team lost.
Be sure to bookmark our site, as well as follow us on Social Networks below…