Rough Second Half Costs Hoosiers At Illinois
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Indiana missed its chance.
It had a lead, a reeling opponent and crunch-time toughness at Illinois Wednesday night.
But free throw misery and turnover frenzy were too much to overcome.
The Hoosiers lost 73-71.
"Life on the road isn't easy," coach Archie Miller told Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer during the postgame radio show. "We needed to be better at the free throw line and tougher minded on defense and we could have won this game."
Juwan Morgan was once again a catalyst. The junior forward totaled 28 points and eight rebounds to follow his 25-and-five effort two days earlier against Maryland.
"Juwan is carrying a big load," Miller told Fischer. "He did a nice job early in the game. We have to get him locked in at the free throw line. He's given us good production."
For the record, Morgan was 3-for-8 from the line.
Teammate Zach McRoberts added 10 points and five rebounds.
It wasn't enough.
Eighteen turnovers, 11 in the second half, was a problem. So was 16-for-29 free throw shooting.
"I'm disappointed with our free-throw shooting and second-half mentality defensively," Miller told Fischer.
IU (12-9 overall, 5-4 in the Big Ten) was outscored 41-33 in the second half.
"They got aggressive," Miller said about Illinois' second-half surge. "We weren't able to bring the same intensity with the stops we had in the first half. Then it became a free throw shooting contest pretty quickly.
"We had to deal with a lot of (Illinois defensive) pressure. We came unglued at times."
Illinois (11-11, 1-8) got 19 points each from Trent Frazier and Leron Black.
IU faced a fading Illinois team that had lost six straight, but had pushed Michigan State hard in an 87-74 home loss Monday night.
First-year head coach Brad Underwood's success at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State (a combined 129-27) hadn't translated to Illinois yet, and it showed early on, when the Hoosiers jumped to a 12-4 lead. Morgan led the way with seven points.
The early Hoosier offense wasn't a surprise given Illinois' defensive vulnerability. It ranked 13th in the 14-team league in 2-point shooting defense, allowing teams to shoot at a 60.1 percent clip.
Still, the IU key was Morgan. When he got a brief first-half rest, IU's offense went dormant.
Morgan returned and McRoberts found his long-distant range with a pair of three-pointers to boost IU to a 19-10 lead.
Turnovers prevented the Hoosiers from gaining more separation. Illinois took advantage to inch within 24-20. Robert Johnson responded with his first points – a three-pointer -- followed by a dunk from Morgan for a 29-20 Hoosier lead.
By halftime, IU led 38-32.
Illinois ratcheted up the defensive pace to start the second half to close within a point. Morgan picked up his third foul and went to the bench. Collin Hartman picked up his third foul and stayed in the game.
The result – cliffhanger.
Hoosier turnovers mounted. Illini pressure escalated. Free throw woes continued.
After 28 minutes, Illinois earned its first lead. Its 10-0 run produced a 55-51 advantage.
Foul trouble hit the Illini when Black picked up his fourth foul and had to sit, taking his 19 points and five rebounds with him.
IU couldn't capitalize because it couldn't score a basket. A seven-minute field goal drought left the Hoosier offense riding on free throws.
That was a problem.
Still, a Hoosier team steeled by win-close success pushed for a comeback. An eight-point deficit was cut to two.
With eight seconds left, it had a chance for a tie or victory, but guard Devonte Green's inside pass to Justin Smith bounced into a final turnover.
Now the IU schedule really gets brutal. The Hoosiers host No. 3 Purdue on Sunday, travel to No. 13 Ohio State next Tuesday then host No. 6 Michigan State on Feb. 3.
It is the price of an accelerated Big Ten schedule to play the conference tournament in New York City starting at the end of February.