CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Thursday’s performance embodied the last four years of Illinois athletics for Illinois’ seniors.
In Aaron Jordan’s final home game, Indiana blew out Illinois on Senior Night by Indiana on Thursday night at the State Farm Center, 92-74.
“We had a complete lack of energy,” said Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood. “It was like we were a cellphone and the light comes on and says, ‘low power.’ That was us all night... I’m blind-sided by this.”
The Illini (11-19, 7-12) had two things on the agenda entering tonight’s contest: burst Indiana’s bubble and secure a top-10 seed for next week’s Big Ten Tournament, avoiding the first round of games on Wednesday. They didn’t accomplish either. Instead, Illinois will have to wait for its matchup on Sunday at Penn State to lock up either the eight, nine, or 10-seed.
Illinois used a hot start from behind the arc (7-of-13) to jumpstart its offense, including three treys from Aaron Jordan and two from Ayo Dosunmu, but the offense wasn’t the issue. The Hoosiers (16-14, 7-12) hung a season-high 52-point half on the Illini, getting to the rim at will. Indiana would post 30 points in the paint in the first half, while also going 6-of-17 from deep.
“I don’t feel like we got in a rhythm defensively,” Dosunmu said. “Our defense was atrocious. We didn’t guard anyone, we didn’t run back on defense, we didn’t play with urgency.”
The second half opened without any sense of urgency for the home team. Indiana built on its 10-point halftime lead by starting the second period on a 19-7 run. The Hoosiers established themselves in the bonus early in the half and capitalized at the line. They controlled the pace of the game all night by drawing out possessions, getting open looks at the rim, and limiting turnovers. A balanced Indiana attack with five players finishing in double figures was too much for the Illini to handle defensively, while there just wasn’t enough firepower on the offensive end as Illinois fell, 92-74.
“We’re 31 games in,” Underwood said. “We’re not trying to find ourselves... The last half of Big Ten play, we’ve been pretty good. That was an abnormal performance.”
SAD, BUT TRUE
Pending an improbable and miraculous run for the Big Ten Tournament championship, this year’s graduating class will depart without an NCAA Tournament appearance or football bowl bid to its name, becoming the first since 1980.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Brad Underwood is going to do some hollering in that locker room, let me tell ya.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) March 8, 2019
The Illini wrap up their season on the road on Sunday night at Penn State. The Nittany Lions (13-17, 6-13) are winners of four of their last five, including a win at State Farm Center over Illinois on Feb. 23.
Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. CT.
For vintage inspired, high quality, and well-designed University of Illinois apparel, check out Fourth and Kirby, and look for the TCR Collection while you’re at it!