CHAMPAIGN — In an intense atmosphere at State Farm Center on Thursday night, all eyes were on Trayce Jackson-Davis.
With Illinois fighting back minutes into the second half, the star-studded Hoosier big man blew right past Dain Dainja at the top of the key for a jaw-dropping, tomahawk slam. Less than two minutes later, he spun around Dainja for another one.
Jackson-Davis’ shocking display summarized the entire night, as his 35 points led Indiana in an offensive clinic to a 80-65 win over Illinois, snapping the Illini’s four-game winning streak.
Illinois (13-6, 4-4 Big Ten) started with the intensity early, but the road underdogs quieted the electric crowd quick, using unprecedented efficiency to charge onto an 18-3 run.
What started as an Indiana run turned into complete Hoosier dominance. Continued impressive shooting allowed Mike Woodson’s team to extend the lead to 37-18.
Despite still being without Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson — two of their best players — the Hoosiers (12-6, 3-4 Big Ten) couldn’t be stopped. Led by Jackson-Davis and Jordan Geronimo’s flawless first-half performances (each 6-for-6), Indiana shot an astounding 67% from the field going into the break.
“We didn’t execute defensively,” said Terrence Shannon Jr. “All around, everyone.”
One of the few Illinois highlights early on was Shannon’s 13 points, but the rest of the team couldn’t get anything to fall. The shooting percentage was in the low 20s for nearly the entire first half, and the 50% effort from the free throw line wasn’t any better.
“We didn’t run anything,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “When we don’t run anything, it hurts our defense.”
However, a couple exciting buckets from RJ Melendez gave the Illini much needed momentum into the locker room, as they miraculously only trailed 43-33.
The momentum boost proved to be rather brief. After half, Jackson-Davis picked up where he left off, and Illinois’ lack of offensive and defensive fight allowed Indiana to take a commanding 62-41 lead.
From there, Illinois made a few last-ditch efforts, but they weren’t enough.
“It was an off night,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “Mentally, we were fatigued, and physically, we were even worse.”
Jackson-Davis’ 35 points were a career-high in any Big Ten game. His 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks added to an unforgettable performance.
Every player rallied behind him, as they ended the game with an almost 62% shooting as a team. The Hoosiers only shot 3-for-9 from beyond the arc, but made up for it with 54 points in the paint.
The foul disparity was just about the only positive figure in the box score for the Illini. They were fouled 20 times to the Hoosiers’ 9, but couldn’t take advantage of it.
“We missed 14 free throws and 13 layups,” Underwood said. “I don’t care who you play, you’re not gonna win.”
The Illinois head coach also focused on the brutal schedule his guys just finished: Nineteen straight days without rest. Regardless, there was a far better team out there on Thursday, and that much was clear.
“I’m not gonna make excuses,” Underwood said. “They were tougher, they were better, and they deserve the credit.”
Shannon did his best to lead Illinois back into the game, finishing with 26 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. The only other Illini to end in double figures was Melendez with 10.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
- MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: With Illinois down early 14-5, a Jayden Epps steal led to a questionable foul call on Indiana that led to a technical foul on head coach Mike Woodson. Given four free throws, the Illini only made two, and the Hoosiers easily grabbed the momentum back.
Down 20-12, Illinois started to regain momentum, but more missed free throws by Dainja allowed Indiana to remain in control of the game
- REFS...: After being down by 19 late in the first half, Illinois found itself only down 50-38 early in the second. A few questionable defensive foul calls on the Illini led to a series of boos from the crowd, and to make matters worse, Underwood’s fury gave him a tech. Indiana proceeded to take a 15-point lead from free throws, silencing State Farm Center once again.
- BACK BREAKERS: A 9-0 Illinois run brought the deficit down to 12 with under eight minutes left, but two consecutive buckets by Trey Galloway put the Illini away.
- MEDIOCRE MAYER: One of Illinois’ usual top scoring threats, Matthew Mayer looked more lost than ever on Thursday, failing to score on 0-4 shooting in 22 minutes. It was his first time failing to score this season. After the game, Underwood revealed that Mayer had been dealing with some sort of sickness in the prior days, which may give fans an insight into why he disappeared in a game that Illinois desperately needed him.
- PERRIN!!: In the final minutes, freshman Zacharie Perrin received an uproar from the Illini crowd as he entered the game for the first time in his Illinois career.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Indiana fans watching this on repeat right now.
Keep him in check, Pipes.
I'm pretty sure TJD just did the "I own you" to the Orange Krush...— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) January 20, 2023
With this win, he is now 2-4 against Illinois
The X-factor Indiana needed.
Coming into tonight, Jordan Geronimo’s regular season career high was 13 points in December of 2021.— Noah Cowell (@cowell_noah) January 20, 2023
He had 13 points at half. #SoundSmart
TWEET OF THE GAME
Illinois will attempt to bounce back from the tough loss next Tuesday at home against slumping Ohio State.
The game is at 6 p.m. on ESPN.