I think Cody Zeller is still looking around for him as we speak. That was a defensive breakdown for the ages. No other way to put it when you give up a bucket like that with 0.9 seconds left.
The Illini deserve MAJOR credit for continuing to battle despite Indiana answering nearly every run. The major difference in the last two minutes? Defense. Everyone got their hands in the passing lanes and got physical. Right or not, the refs appeared to swallow their whistles and the Illini never looked back.
- Major props to DJ Richardson. He showed the willingness to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. I didn’t think he really had that in him but he’s actually started to become relatively consistent at that in the second half of the season.
- Brandon Paul also deserves kudos for finally getting the message on the defensive end of the floor. Victor Oladipo was held in check offensively. He’s been the key for the Hoosiers during their rise this season.
- I just can’t help but feeling great for Griffey. He’s been mired in a long shooting slump but had some big buckets tonight including the game winner. Hopefully, this will get him going the rest of the season.
- Joseph Bertrand‘s final numbers don’t look great but his willingness to drive the ball when no one else would was huge. He started the trend of attacking and kept the game from getting out of hand early on. The Illini had 15 free throw attempts!
There’s virtually no way this team can miss the NCAA Tournament going forward. They have four of the best wins of any team in the country. I suppose falling at home to the Penn State Nittany Lions and Nebraska Cornhuskers could do it but outside that it is virtually impossible. Look for the Illini to be around a 9 seed in March Madness.
Next up is the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Williams Arena. That will be quite the challenge. Winning it though would be huge because the Illini haven’t won a thing on the road this year in conference.
Containing the bigs is going to a major factor. I don’t trust the Gophers guards. They’ve really faded in the last few weeks. Force Austin Hollins to beat you. I’d double Trevor Mbakwe every time he touches the ball in the paint.
Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.