Illini shut down on the road

By Courtney Linehan

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -ÿIllinois brought back the orange to counter the crimson that filled Indiana’s Assembly Hall on Tuesday night. But the return of the team’s favorite color wasn’t enough to overcome the hometown Hoosiers, who won 62-60 in a game that featured a 15-point Indiana lead but came down to the final shot.

“You have to feel proud of your teammates for coming back and playing,” said forward James Augustine, who had 11 points and just three rebounds for Illinois. “At Iowa we just gave up. Tonight, we didn’t give up.”

Illinois scored first when guard Dee Brown dished to Brian Randle in the opposite corner for a tip in. The Illini ultimately put the first eight points on the board, but Indiana made the most of its attempts by draining a trio of treys to climb within five points 10 minutes into the game.

A Ben Allen three with six minutes to play in the first half brought Indiana within two points. The Hoosiers then pressured Jamar Smith into a five-second violation, brought the ball back down the court and missed several shot attempts before Marshall Strickland hit a jumper to tie the game.

Indiana took the lead with 2:46 in the half, and things didn’t get better for the Illini when Randle failed to capitalize on a pair of free throws. Lewis Monroe sunk two for Indiana and guard Wilmont Roderick scored a dunk and a layup on back-to-back fast breaks giving Indiana an eight-point advantage. Randle dunked for Illinois and Marco Killingsworth split a pair of double-bonus free throws for the Hoosiers, but a long three by Brown cut the lead to 28-24 at halftime.

“Their transition offense in the first half and our tentativeness, and then Marco (Killingsworth) in the second half, it was just too much for us to get a victory on the road,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said.

Shaun Pruitt started the second half with a big block for Illinois, but Killingsworth rebounded and got the layup. Pruitt made a pair of layups after that, but Indiana went on a six-point run before Illinois could score again.

“We came into the second half fired up, but when you can’t take that first wave it kind of gets to you,” Randle said.

Brown fumbled the ball and Strickland drew the foul going one-on-one down the court with Smith five minutes into the second half. The score then favored Indiana 42-34.

But then things started to change. Smith made a jumper. Two minutes later, Pruitt dunked. Two minutes after that, Augustine got a layup.

And by the time there were just four minutes remaining in the game, Indiana’s lead was cut to just two.

“I thought we were going to come back and win it,” Augustine said. “You’ve always got to have confidence.”

With four fouls on his back and 15 seconds on the clock, Brown dribbles down court, sets up to shoot a three, misses, and Smith tips in for the two.

Four seconds left. Illini down one. Brown fouls out, sending Robert Vaden to the line.

Vaden makes two, Rich McBride misses a Hail Mary from almost half court, and Indiana storms the court.

Weber has said his team is not used to losing, and picking up only the fourth defeat in two seasons doesn’t make that any easier. But the Illini know what they did wrong. And they vow to correct it.

“We were shut down,” Randle said. “For this team to do that, it’s just not acceptable.”