For the sixth straight week, the number one ranked team in the country lost. No. 1 Indiana laid an egg to what should have been a fairly easy win against an Illinois team that had been struggling mightily in conference play.
Indiana (20-3, 8-2) dominated most of the game, leading by as much as 14 points, but a flurry of late three pointers tied the game. A late defensive breakdown led to an easy layup for Illinois (16-8, 3-7) as time expired and IU lost 74-72.
Indiana had the ball with under 35 seconds left in the game and they were both tied at 72. The Hoosiers ran an isolation play for Victor Oladipo. He lost his handle on the ball and Brandon Paul scooped it up and was en route to a game winner before Oladipo recovered and blocked his shot into the first row with 0.9 seconds left in the game.
On the inbounds pass, Cody Zeller lost his man, Tyler Griffey, who broke to the basket and nailed the easy layup for the win. It was an inexcusable mistake by Zeller who simply didn't cover the basket at all. He should have positioned himself between the basket and his man but for some reason didn't.
IU lost this game for a number of reasons, but the biggest is the ineffectiveness of Oladipo all evening. Oladipo has had an amazing season, but Paul got the better of him all night long. He was completely off his game on both sides of the ball. The Hoosiers finished the night with zero fast break points.
Oladipo finished with 9 points off 3-of-7 shooting. He had four rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Paul was able to get a fist step on Oladipo all evening, which is something no one else has been able to accomplish all season. Paul finished the game with 21 points and three steals. Oladipo could do nothing to stop Paul all night, he simply had his worst game all season.
Cody Zeller finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds, but was constantly bullied out of the post and unable to get position down low for most of the game. Illinois did its best to harass Zeller with multiple defenders and it seemed to work as Zeller often became flustered and the offense broke down as a result. This was part Zeller not playing strong and part the refeeres not caling the multiple hacks and fouls that the Illinois players were inflicting down low.
The game the refs called late was very questionable. The first half was virtually foul free, but every slight touch was called in the second especially late. Illinois was able to claw back into the game with a combination of three's and three point plays. The refs pushed the limits of what can be called "continuation" (where a player is fouled but still takes a shot).
Will Sheehey had a big impact on the game with 13 points. He drew a technical for apparently saying something to the crowd after a big dunk. It was an extremely quick whistle and the replay showed nothing more than him yelling, which by rule isn't worth a tech. What is worth a tech is the tantrum that Illinois coach John Groce threw after Nnanna Ehgu fouled out of the game. Groce was out in the middle of the court screaming at the officials, doing far more than what Sheehey did.
Jeremy Hollowell is continuing to improve. He was very solid on defense and connected on his two three pointers to finish with six points.
Indiana's biggest problem all night was turnovers. IU coughed up the ball 14 times, something that is increasingly becoming a problem for a team that has championship aspirations.
Another issues was the Hoosiers inability to get to the free throw line late in the game. IU was in the bonus with over four minutes left in the game. Indiana should have been attacking the basket and dumping the ball down low to Zeller for easy fouls or high percentage shots, neither of which happened. Indiana only got to the free throw line 14 times, which is low for IU who average 26.8 free throw attempts per game.
The road doesn't get any easier for Indiana as they head to Columbus to face No. 10 Ohio State. Indiana will have to address its problems fast and learn as much from this game as it can over the next two days.
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