Indiana men’s basketball surrenders to Illinois No. 18’s inside presence and firepower

Indiana men’s basketball had a week of preparation before their matchup against the Big Ten’s top-ranked team, No. 18 Illinois. Despite having time off, the team couldn’t find an effective strategy against Illinois’ interior dominance and perimeter shooting, condemning it to a 74-57 loss Sunday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The Hoosiers used the score of a plethora of players to hang on to a thread at halftime with a 36-34 lead, but their fall to the Fighting Illini came from mismatches in the paint at both ends of the field. A refusal to involve his players as much in the second half did not help matters.

“It’s happened in the past with us,” said senior forward Race Thompson. “The match is not over at half-time.”

A 19-11 run to start the game was orchestrated by senior guard Parker Stewart’s 3-point pair and his eagerness to find looks on the lane, as well as Thompson’s awareness and quick-wittedness in the post .

While senior guard Rob Phinisee was sidelined with plantar fasciitis, freshman guard Tamar Bates played crucial minutes and scored all his 6 points in the first half.

Similar to the limited playing time and fouls that plagued his night in Indiana’s upset victory over No. 4 Purdue on January 20, junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis struggled to hold his own as as primary defenseman against Illinois junior center Kofi Cockburn.

The feeling of frustration between the big Hoosier men was mutual.

“I didn’t really get it in my way tonight,” Thompson said of Cockburn. “Just sort of circles around him, really. I tried to tell Trayce and Mike. Defensively, he is definitely tough. It’s heavy, it’s strong.

Cockburn, a 7-foot, 285-pound big man who is averaging 21.8 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game, forced Jackson-Davis to the bench with two fouls before five minutes were up in the first half. -time.

With Jackson-Davis absent from the field, senior center Michael Durr stepped in and kept Cockburn to 5 points in the first half. Durr’s restlessness and physique seemed to take Cockburn by surprise, and that effort led to catchy rebounds at both ends of the court.

However, Cockburn made up for his lack of scoring with persistence and regained possession of the paint in due time. Durr himself committed three fouls at halftime, leaving the Hoosiers in a complicated rotating mind game heading into the second half. Durr ended up fouling out of the game in the second half.

“I mean, you can’t make (Cockburn) disappear,” Woodson said. “They just sat him in there, let him clog the middle and say, ‘Beat me on the perimeter. “”

Cockburn, a Big Ten Player of the Year favorite, scored 12 points in the second half, but the differences between the two teams’ offensive firepower became apparent in the final 20 minutes.

In the final 13 minutes, Illinois capped off what had previously been a back-and-forth battle with a 32-11 run through a 3-point barrage. Senior guard Trent Frazier, who finished with a game-high 23 points, led the way for Illinois with three of his 10 afternoon 3-pointers as part of a shooting mark of 43% by the team. The space the Indiana defense left to work with the Illinois shooters was reminiscent of a similar rotational breakdown in their loss to Michigan on Jan. 23.

Senior guard Xavier Johnson was at the center of the offensive creativity Indiana could muster. He finished with the second-highest rating of any Indiana player with 12 points, had a game-high five rebounds at halftime, and dished out five assists.

Although Indiana struggled to get into a rhythm in the second half, a pair of assists from Johnson to Jackson-Davis gave Indiana a much-needed boost as Illinois came within reach.

No Indiana player scored more than 6 points in the second half, and Jackson-Davis’ individual efforts against Cockburn in the paint ended in awkward stumbles and no-calls coupled with simple rebounds for the ‘Illinois.

“They put on a solid 40-minute ball game and we put on a 20-minute ball game,” Woodson said. “The three-point shot eluded us again tonight. We never really got over it. »

Indiana won’t have much time to dwell on Saturday’s loss with a game against Northwestern looming. The game kicks off at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Evanston, Illinois.

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