BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Late game mismanagement all around.
Without leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. — who averages 17 points per game — the odds were against Illinois in a game that meant a lot to the conference standings.
The senior transfer, leading scorer and impactful defender being out meant that other guys would have to step up — unfortunately the efforts of Matthew Mayer (24 points) and the guys were not enough as they fell to No. 14 Indiana, 71-68.
Down two points with just over 16 seconds to play, Jayden Epps drove to the hole and was fouled. He only made one of two free throws, and Indiana found Trayce Jackson-Davis at the end of the court for a dunk, which put them up three.
“We tried to get the ball to Matt on the side out of bounds,” Underwood said. “That was great. We got Jayden downhill, which was exactly what we were trying to do off the last play.”
Illinois had one last chance to tie the game and, it looked like Mayer would be the one to shoot it — he had been 4-of-11 from behind the arc — but he then dished it to RJ Melendez (who hadn’t made a field goal in the game), who missed the potential game-tying three pointer.
“I wish he’d made it, but no one’s ever told RJ to stop shooting,” Underwood said. “He’s had a hard year, but I said exactly on the bench, ‘overtime,’ as soon as he let it go.”
One player who Underwood was proud of, though, was Luke Goode — the sophomore cashed in seven points and did small things the right way.
“I think anybody who knows anything about the game of basketball saw Luke Goode’s value today,” Underwood said. “His ability to make shots, he never makes a mistake defensively, gets his hands on loose balls, and is always in the right spot.”
To keep things on a positive note, it was a much more valiant effort from Illinois (17-9, 8-7 Big Ten) than in the first matchup with Indiana (19-8, 10-6 Big Ten).
Back on Jan. 19, Indiana came into State Farm Center and delivered a blow to the sold-out Champaign crowd behind Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 35 points. In order to keep it close today, they had to change the game plan to defend TJD better, and they did just that.
He still had 26 points and 12 rebounds, but Underwood can live with those stats.
“I thought we did a great job on Trayce,” Underwood said. “I know what Mike’s [Woodson] feeling, when you got one of the best players in the country, if not the best player, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Even though it was a loss, it was a much cleaner game overall than the first meeting between the two and Underwood is happy with the state of his team.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t played these guys healthy,” Underwood said. “But I’m a much bigger believer in our team right now than I have been at any point in the season.”
Illinois now moves into a tie for seventh in the conference after the loss.
UPDATE ON SHANNON JR.?
Underwood: “Obviously we don’t know anything about Terrence, he’s in concussion protocol.”
Hopefully we see Shannon return soon, as the Illini will need him and his veteran presence down the stretch.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
LATE MISCUES: Like mentioned above, the end of the game was pretty sloppy. Down two with just over 16 seconds to play, Jayden Epps drove to hoop, was fouled, and only made one of two free throws. Then on the final possession of the game down three, Matthew Mayer was trying to get open, but instead gave the ball to RJ Melendez to try and tie it.
HAWKINS SLAM (AND TECH...): Coleman Hawkins postered Trayce Jackson-Davis in the first half and was ecstatic about it, because who wouldn't be if you just postered a guy like TJD?
But go figure, a technical foul was called on Hawkins for “taunting” and Indiana was given two free throws (made both).
BEHIND THE ARC: Coming in to Saturday’s game, Illinois only shot 31.3% from deep as a team. They shot 50% from that range in the first half with Mayer cashing in four, but the second half was more on par with the season, as there wasn’t a made three (0-8) which really hurt them in the second half.
DEFENSE: Let’s do a little compare and contrast here. In the Jan. 19 matchup between these two, Indiana shot 61.8% from the field. On Saturday, IU only shot 43.9% from the field. A valiant effort from Illinois to say the least.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Mayer likes playing on the road it seems.
Mayer also did this.
The boys are doing some flying today, that's for sure. ✈️ https://t.co/JieD7fvk35— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) February 18, 2023
- Illinois dropped to 91-96 all time in the series.
- Indiana has now won three in a row against Illinois.
- Illinois drops to 31-58 all time in Assembly Hall.
A quick turnaround to try and avoid three-straight losses.
Illinois will host Minnesota on Monday night in a COVID makeup game from a couple weeks ago.
Tipoff against the Gophers is at 8 p.m. and will air on BTN.