Road trip starts on bad note

By Courtney Linehan

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Hoosiers celebrated like they had already won when senior guard Dee Brown picked up his fourth foul with 12:05 remaining in the game. Indiana led 47-36, Illinois was missing shots from all over the court and the visitor’s star point guard was hitting the pines.

The game was all but in the bag.

Bruce Weber wound up at mid-court by the time the referees realized he was calling for a timeout, and the Indiana fans were mid-wave when play picked up again. Marco Killingsworth hit a lay up, and Indiana increased its lead to 13 points.

Then sophomore forward Shaun Pruitt dunked. Killingsworth answered with a short bucket. Indiana’s junior guard, Earl Calloway, drew a foul and action stopped for a media timeout. The band played “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore,” a song that might have had meaning for the Hoosiers, who had not beaten Illinois in the last five meetings.

Illinois slowly outscored Indiana over the next eight minutes, and with 2:18 remaining, sophomore forward Brian Randle dunked on a fast break to tie the game.

But it wasn’t enough.

No. 13 Indiana upset No. 7 Illinois 62-60 Tuesday night, giving the Illini their second loss of the season. After holding off Michigan State and Michigan, but falling to unranked Iowa, the Illini (16-2 overall) are now .500 in Big Ten competition.

“Nothing is going to be easy,” Weber said. “I’ve said since the beginning (the Big Ten is) as well-balanced a league as it’s been in a long time. If we’re going to be in there in the end, we’re going to have to find a way to win on the road.”

For the Illini this was just one more reminder that they are no longer the undefeated, undisputed No. 1 team in the nation. With a roster featuring more freshmen than seniors, the Illini have rookies to Big Ten competition who Weber says are unaccustomed to the kind of pressure they have been feeling this season.

“We can’t play tentative, and they have to live through that, go through it,” Weber said. “When the crowd gets loud and they’re on the other end, I can’t help them.”

Illinois’ biggest problem may have been that they helped each other more than they helped themselves. The Illini had more assists than Hoosiers 17-13, led by Brown’s 11 dishes. The senior captain had more than twice as many assists as he had points.

“I think (scoring) is what people look at when they look at me,” Brown said.

But with just a three-pointer and a pair of free throws, Brown didn’t give the statisticians much to study.

The Hoosiers readily admit how heavily they weigh the victory. Crimson-clad fans stormed the court after the buzzer’s final ring, leaving the Illini locked to their bench as swarms surrounded Indiana’s players. But Illinois managed to take some positives away from the reaction, looking at it as more of a compliment to their program than a jab at their play tonight.

“At least we know,” senior forward James Augustine said, “that we’ve got everybody else’s respect.”