Date: March 5, 2011
Gametime: 12:00 ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Illinois looks to salvage one last win at home, in what has become an increasingly disappointing season for the Illini. After a difficult finish against Purdue away from Assembly Hall, Bruce Weber’s squad needs to lock up their last home game of the season on senior night. With the Illini fighting for every win they can get, a slip up against the Hoosiers could provide the death blow to Illinois’ tournament hopes.
Indiana will try to add some momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament, and finish their conference games strong. Tom Crean will look to turn another corner against the Illini by completing a season sweep against a bitter rival and snatching another quality win for a team in desperate need of confidence.
Previous Match Up
The Hoosier’s bested their rival in what can be considered their only marquee win of the season (
Minnesota), their first over a top 25 opponent in two years and the best win of Tom Crean's three years in Bloomington. Led by a second half flurry from sophomore guard Jordan Hulls, the Hoosiers were able to gut out a win against the struggling Illini. Christian Watford did not shoot particularly well (5-14 FG), but contributed almost half of Indiana’s foul shots (5-5).
A terrible game from Demetri McCamey, and team shooting that can only be described as worse then Indiana's, led to a surprising loss against the Hoosiers. Mike Davis was the only Illinois player in double figures with 14. Tom Pritchard’s tip of a missed shot at the 44 second mark of the second half proved to be the final points needed to finish off Illinois. The overly enthusiastic reaction from the Hoosier faithful after the game was the salt in the wound for the demoralized Illini team.
How to enhance/ruin a tournament bid
Indiana needs to play their most complete game of the season if they are to have any chance against this desperate Illinois team. In a season that has been defined by streaky shooting and porous defense, the Hoosiers need to fire on all cylinders to have any chance at a win in the other Assembly Hall.
Hot shooting will be crucial for Indiana; 27.3% shooting in the second half is not going to lead to another victory in this rematch. Hulls, Watford and Verdell Jones III all need to have spectacular days for the Hoosiers to have any kind of chance.
Keeping the Mikes in check (Tisdale and Davis), while locking down the Illini perimeter will be key to the Hoosier effort. With a lack of size and athleticism to match the Illini, the Hoosier's cannot get into a running match and need to control their league leading propensity to commit fouls (22.8/game).
McCamey needs to play up to his preseason billing. His disappearing act in crucial Illinois games has hurt his team's chances at pulling out close victories. Their loss to Ohio State at home is a prime examples of this. He needs to show the fire and the leadership that fueled the Illini's hot shooting in the first half against Purdue on Tuesday.
The Illini need to build on that phenomenal first half they had against Purdue. Their offense was opening up clean looks with well executed motion, screens and back cuts against the conferences most efficient defense. Look for Illinois to feed the pill down low to their bigs and use McCamey's ability to drive to set up outside shots against the second worst three point defense in the league.
Urgency with poise is what needs to dictate this game for Illinois. The seniors need to step up on their last night as players in Assembly Hall and finish this game with a strong second half. One half basketball has been the curse of Illinois most of the year, and they need to figure out how to play at a high level for an entire game.
While Indiana has no offseason beyond the BTT, Tom Crean can build some momentum heading into their first day match up with the only conference road win of the season for the Hoosiers and a sweep of a bitter rival to boot. Bruce Weber is fighting for his team's tournament life and can alleviate a long offseason by adding another win to his total and keeping the Illini in the hunt for a precious postseason berth.
IU will get up for rivalry games as the first match up taught us, but I just do not see them playing the game of their lives when they have nothing tangible to play for. Illinois will use senior night emotion, the possibility of missing the NCAA tournament and the memory of last game to man handle IU. Ilinois 70, Indiana 57.