Assembly hall in Indiana was packed for the Illinois-Indiana game. Going into this match up both teams were .500 in conference. Indiana coming in at (6-6) and Illinois at (5-5). The last time these two teams met, the Fighting Illini won in Champaign 72-48 on March 5 2011.
Big wins have come at different times for both teams but who would take the match tonight?
The series between Indiana and Illinois was tied 83 games apiece going into tonight. And neither team was going to give the other the win on a silver platter. Previously in the season both the Illini and the Hoosiers have beaten top ranked Ohio State, but Indiana had a few more key wins also beating Kentucky.
One of the big keys to the game was the way the Illini attacked defensively under the net when Indiana was driving in to the bucket. The game can be summed up by one word and that is: Physical. It was a very physical on both ends, lights shined on stars of both teams. Meyers Leonard the Sophomore Center for the Illini and Freshmen Forward Cody Zeller for the Hoosiers. Both men are usually very respectful and quiet about their success on the court. But that wasn’t the case tonight.
Meyers Leonard was an absolute beast using his size both defensively and offensively. Scoring points in the first half that he would normally would average per game. Taking a couple cheap shots got him going early in the second half, and when he got to the point where his emotions got the best of him, before he knew it he had four fouls with 12 to go in the second half.
The Fighting Illini started to trail five minutes into the second half. And then it got worse
Now Brandon Paul knew he had to step up. He was quiet all game and it was his time, just like it’s been all season. He is the league’s top scorer averaging about 20 points per game. If there was any time to come back it would be now, especially with Leonard on the bench.
However, Paul couldn’t pull away in his normal fashion. And Indiana didn’t just keep driving to the basket. Aside from a few shots in the paint, the Hoosiers went 3-3 behind the arch grabbed a quick lead while the Illini tried to follow suit but failed shooting 4-13 on threes.
Not all was lost for Illini; they had one of the best bench performances of the year totaling eight points.
Simple field goals were a problem for the Illni only shooting 12-24. The thing to do when you’re down by ten and it is such a close game is to get into the paint, drive to the basket and guarantee the two points. Hope for the and one. With the way the game was being called (very fairly by the way) any player going up would be guaranteed to draw a foul.
Then with three minutes to go Leonard goes up for a rebound, having his left hand on the back of a Hoosier, and fouls out on a push.
Cody Zeller finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds for the Hoosiers. He played dominantly all game and too was in foul trouble. Able to control his emotions a little better then Leonard, he was able to be held to four fouls.
Both teams are now fighting for spots in the Big Ten Tournament that will take place in the beginning of March.