Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers win third straight in matchup vs Illini

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 02: Indiana Hoosiers celebrates 79 - 75 win against Michigan State Spartans at Breslin Center on February 2, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 02: Indiana Hoosiers celebrates 79 - 75 win against Michigan State Spartans at Breslin Center on February 2, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

In what has been an erratic season for Indiana basketball, they collected their third win in a row after defeating Wisconsin, Michigan State, and now Illinois. This streak follows a horrendous 12 out of 13 losing slide. The Hoosiers appear to be more motivated and inspired as of late. They routed the Illini tonight by a score of 92 to 74.

The Hoosiers have started slow recently but tonight was a different story. The team scored 10 points in the first five minutes finishing with 52 for the half, leading by 10.

To compare, 52 points in the first half is more than either Purdue or Indiana recorded in the entire game in which the Hoosiers lost 48 to 46.

The 52 first half points was also the most scored for the team since the Marquette game in which they recorded 47 points and the Chicago State game where Indiana had a season high of 53 points for the first half.

Rob Phinisee came alive tonight and pushed the tempo for the Hoosiers. He scored 17 points on a splendid 7-for-12 shooting. He also dished out five dimes.

Coach Archie Miller had nothing but praise for the freshman.

"“Everyone handled the ball well. Rob did a great job and that made the game comfortable for us…He has a unique ability to stop and start. He has a herky-jerky-ness to him.”"

The team was very balanced in their production with five players being in double digits and nine scoring for the Hoosiers.

Senior Juwan Morgan scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win. Coach Brad Underwood of Illinois said that he was one of the biggest differences in the first half along with Phinisee. His resilience has made him the leader of this team and it showed tonight with his plus 18 point differential when he was in the game.

Justin Smith has played well above expectations in the last two games to help the Hoosiers. After coming off a career high 24 point performance against Michigan State, Smith was able to score 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting, adding seven boards.

The team’s confidence has soared recently which has enabled certain players to become more loose and shoot the ball without hesitation.

One such player is Devonte Green. Green was a productive 4-for-6 from the field making three of his five shots from beyond the arc in an 11 point performance. He also dished out a team high six assists.

Freshman phenom Romeo Langford shot 4-for-8 from the field with 10 points but did much more not in the box score. The Illini were focused on stopping him all night leading to open opportunities for the rest of the team.

To round off the notable Indiana contributors was De’Ron Davis. The 6-foot-10 product added nine points in 15 minutes. Illinois big man Giorgi Bezhanishvili looked invisible on the court when Davis was matched up with him.

The Hoosiers 92 points were the most in Big Ten play since the 2016-17 season when the team had James Blackmon Jr, Thomas Bryant, and OG Anunoby. For reference: This was Tom Crean’s last season as coach of the Hoosiers.

The 92-74 victory is a great way to end the Big Ten for road games. Coming into the contest, Indiana only held two road wins. This success came against Penn State in early December and Michigan State.

Next. What Indiana Needs To Do To Get An At-Large Bid. dark

This recent stretch has allowed the team to hurdle many analysts doubts about their tournament chances.

They are now grouped as a “first four out” team by ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi. If they can beat Rutgers and win one big ten tournament game, expect to see this team dancing into the NCAA tournament draw. However, if they lose to Rutgers or lose first round of the Big Ten tournament, their tournament hopes fall into the hands of the selection committee whom will have a tough decision to make.

Expect the Hoosiers to carry the momentum into their last Big Ten regular season game when they host Rutgers at home. Indiana lost the last time the teams faced off in Piscataway, New Jersey and are looking for revenge when the Scarlet Knights come to Bloomington on Sunday for senior day.