There's no place like the road
For the second time in three games played in Assembly Hall, the Illinois Fighting Illini survived a poor shooting night to get a victory
. Tonight, a superior defensive effort propelled the Illini to a 60-47 win over a young Indiana Hooisers team. The Illini played in front of a national audience on CBS and 15 recruits in the stands.
The Fighting Illini shot only 19-44 (43 percent) from the field and 4-16 from three-point land (Dee Brown was 3-4 from behind the arc and the rest of the team was 1-12). They didn't shoot as bad as they did against Iowa on January 20 (32 percent), but also not nearly as good as against Minnesota on January 29 (56 percent). Illinois is shooting better than 50 percent on the season and 41 percent on three-pointers.
The Illinois defense suffocated the Hoosiers, who frequently went deep into the shot clock (unless they turned the ball over earlier) before hoisting up a tough shot. The 47 points marked the second lowest total of the season for the Hoosiers and was the eleventh straight game the Illini held their opponent under 70 points.
For all of the talk about having three point guards, Illini Wonk only saw one today. Illinois dominated the first ten minutes of the game and built a 20-3 lead as Deron Williams assisted on all 7 of their buckets. At that point, Williams went to the bench and Indiana went on an 8-0 run to pull within nine as part of a 17-6 run to end the half.
With Williams on the bench, no one was creating shots for the Illini. When he left the game, James Augustine had 10 points in the first ten minutes. With Williams on the bench, the other Illini forgot about him and he didn't score the rest of the first half. Luther Head never really appeared in the game, although some late baskets gave him 13 points on the night. Dee Brown shot well, but settled for the outside shot rather than taking the ball to the hole. (Watching him today reminded Illini Wonk of last year's performance with the stress fracture, except that he is shooting better this year).
Deron Williams had 8 assists in the first half and 11 for the game. Even on a day when his shot was off (1 point on 0-7 shooting) he proved just how valuable he is for this team and how important it is to have him on the floor. He runs Coach Weber's motion offense so efficiently and gets everyone involved. He truly makes everyone on his team better, especially James Augustine. Speaking of Augustine, he had a solid game that earned him CBS' player of the game award. He had a game-high 16 points and 4 blocks along with 5 rebounds.
Although it was their lowest scoring game of the season, Illinois still played good enough to win and push their record to 23-0 (9-0). At half time, Seth Davis said that if they beat Wisconsin next Saturday they will run the table in the regular season. However, the Illini do have trips to Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State remaining on the schedule, so it won't be wrapped up until March 5 in Columbus.
Associated Press recap here
. Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Tribune
has a recap here
(why does this appear on the San Jose Mercury News
website before the Trib's?). Mark Tupper blogs
about the game.