It was one of those games. Demetri McCamey and the Illinois Fighting Illini jumped out to a quick start and never looked back, crushing the Indiana Hoosiers with superior play in every aspect of the game.
After just one half the score was 46-27 Illinois, as McCamey got off to a hot start hitting his first two treys. He cooled off from distance, missing his next four, but was able to score on a couple of fast breaks as well as a beutiful baseline drive. The senior point guard had 16 points just in the first half and finished with 22 points on 8/13 shooting with 4 rebounds and 4 assists to boot.
Mike Davis also had a dominant first half for the Illini. He was simply too big for Indiana's Will Sheehey to handle. Standing tall and talented over IU's front line, Davis ended the first half with 11 points and 6 rebounds. Although he was relatively quiet in the second half, the damage was already done.
For the Hoosiers, the whole game was a struggle. After scoring in double digits in the last 11 games in which he played, forward Christian Watford was held to 7 points on 1/8 shooting. Jordan Hulls was equally dreadful, scoring 4 points while going 0/7 from the field. The Hoosiers finished 3/17 from long range and 31.6% overall.
At least Indiana only turned it over 10 times, but the suffocating Illinois defense caused more than their fair of rushed shots while only allowing 11 IU free throw attempts.
The one bright spot for Indiana was point guard Verdell Jones III. Although there was never an opportunity for clutch shot making, Jones connected on a few gorgeous pull-up jumpers that at least made it seem like Indiana was capable of a run. Unfortunately, due to the play of his teammates, nothing ever materialized.
The second half did not provide for much dramatics, although a couple of Illini youngsters got in on the action. 7-foot freshman Meyers Leonard saw some playing time and made it count with a vicious block against Victor Oladipo. McCamey followed that up on the other end by throwing a spectacular alley-oop to Jereme Richmond, another Illinois freshman. Richmond finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds while Leonard had 5 points and 2 blocks.
Speaking of Richmond, midway through the second half, he went down with a shoulder injury after crashing into Jordan Hulls. Richmond did not return to the game and although it's unclear whether Hulls purposefully attacked Richmond, Hail to the Orange is not happy about the incident.
So, Illinois is now in good shape headed into selection Sunday with a 9-9 Big Ten mark and non-conference victories over North Carolina and Gonzaga. A couple of wins in the Big Ten tourney would solidify things, but they should feel pretty safe right now. Indiana on the other hand, is looking at either the 10th or 11th seed in the conference tournament and perhaps some questions this summer about how long Tom Crean is going to take to rebuild the program.