At least it wasn’t another one-score game.
Despite some sloppy play during the game’s first 11 minutes, the Indiana Hoosiers were able to enforce their will defensively during the final nine minutes of the first half and used Romeo Langford’s career-high 28 points to get past a feisty Illinois Fighting Illini team 73-65 on Thursday night.
The Hoosiers [12-2 (3-0)] fell behind 25-15 halfway through the opening half as the Illini used a frantic pace and made eight of the team’s first 13 shots to take control of the game early. Yet the offense and pace would flipped the other way for the remainder of the game as the Hoosiers clamped down on defense and took the ball to the basket instead of settling for long jump shots.
In fact, the Hoosiers’ defense was so suffocating that it forced the Illini to commit five shot clock violations during the final 30 minutes of the game and six in total. Indiana’s ability to prevent Illinois from getting up shots was not just the result of inspired play, but instead was the payoff of many tough practices.
“We work very, very hard in practice on 12-seconds-or-less-on-the-clock defense and at the end of the day you sort of know what you’re going to be dealing with,” said Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller. “You’re going to deal with high ball screens. You’re going to deal with some type of an action where you’re picking and popping; and for us we work on it every day.”
While the Fighting Illini [4-10 (0-3)] offense was blanketed, their defense was assaulted by Langford’s strong drives to the basket, especially in the second half where the freshman scored 19 of his career-high 28 points, including IU’s first 10 points after halftime.
“We knew going into the game, (the Illini) are a real aggressive team, so they like to play the passing lane. So that’s going to leave open driving lanes,” said Langford. “When we had that little slump scoring on the offensive end, I felt we weren’t driving. So when I got back into the game, Coach (Miller) told me I needed to get more aggressive to get us going, and that’s just what I did.”
Coming off his historic triple-double against Jacksonville, Juwan Morgan continued to fill up the stat sheet as he recorded his sixth double-double of the season, contributing 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoosiers.
Both Langford and Morgan will need to perform as well as they did Thursday, if not better, for the Hoosiers to have a chance on Sunday when they travel to Ann Arbor to face unbeaten Michigan.