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Illinois runs out of steam at Indiana, loses 78-68

The Illini have lost four straight and split the season series.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Matic Vesel (2) had more points than Mark Smith (0) at the half.

Blasphemy if you say that very sentence in October, but a fact when looking at the box score Wednesday night in Illinois’ 78-68 loss on the road to Indiana.

Early foul trouble from Greg Eboigbodin in the starting lineup and Kipper Nichols off the bench was devastating for an already under-manned Illini team. Da’Monte Williams (ankle) and Michael Finke (concussion) were out against the Hoosiers.

Trent Frazier played with extreme confidence early in the game, stealing the ball and defense and taking a contested three-pointer in transition. Probably shouldn’t have done that, but he took it. Luckily, he had a nice backdoor cut to the hoop and Illinois went to the first media timeout with a 9-6 lead.

Aaron Jordan hit an early three-pointer, and freshman guard Trent Frazier scored six quick points, but a six-minute Illinois drought doomed head coach Brad Underwood’s team midway through the first half.

Frazier had six of Illinois’ first 16 shot attempts, and the offense was fairly two-dimensional, coming via Frazier and junior forward Leron Black. Frazier was fairly cold in the opening frame, making only three of his first 11 shots, including an 0-for-6 mark from behind-the-arc.

Black finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

As a team, Illinois (12-15, 2-12 Big Ten) shot 1-of-12 from three in the first half.

Illinois had an early run in the second half, cutting the 10-point deficit to five, but Eboigbodin picking up his fourth foul forced Vesel into more action and the offense to run out of steam.

Mark Alstork also picked up three fouls in about one minute in the second half.

The Illini’s foul trouble put the Hoosiers in the bonus for the final 14 minutes of the game, destroying an Illinois comeback — Black cut the deficit to as few as two points.

An Indiana three-pointer from the right elbow with about 10 minutes left extended the lead to six, and the Hoosiers’ shots started to fall, including a driving layup by Ali Durham that forced Underwood to call a timeout.

Out of pure desperation in the second half, Nichols became more aggressive, driving to the rim with two fouls and sinking two three-pointers in transition.

Indiana guard Josh Newkirk drove to the rim with three minutes left and opened the lead up to nine points again, taking away any final Illinois run.

Illinois returns to the court Sunday afternoon at home versus Nebraska. The Illini dropped the first meeting after a buzzer-beater by the surprisingly good Cornhuskers.