As expected, Illinois distanced itself from IU early. In part, because Illini coach Bruce Weber centered his offense around big men MIke Davis and Mike Tisdale. The duo helped build a 17-point cushion at halftime, quieting the 17,000 in attendance.
“We have a size advantage,” Illnois coach Bruce Weber said. “There’s no doubt. Tisdale and Davis have nice inside touches.”
Nice touches shifted to IU’s bench in the second half. Matt Roth converted a four-point play, and Malik Story re-energized the crowd with a rebound and bucket that put his squad within six. Finally, the momentum had seesawed to the Hoosiers. That is, until Chester Frazier hit a clutch three-pointer – a shot that sealed the 13-point Illini win.
“We have great runs and then we’ll make a couple plays that will go the other way,” said IU guard Verdell Jones. “Then they’ll get their little momentum back and it just kills it a little bit. We just have to learn to build on our momentum and contain it.”
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said his team’s resiliency is sometimes surprising, especially because they don’t have a wealth of experience in the Big Ten on which to fall back.
“All they have to fall back on is this, the experience of going through this,” Cream said after the team’s 18th loss of the season. “The experience of playing these games, that’s all they have. They can’t come over and say ‘yeah, three years ago when we played Illinois here, we did this.’ They can’t do that.”