Illini beat Hoosiers in Big Ten Tournament

By Erin Foley

Commentary from author: I saw nearly every Illinois basketball game this season, but none had the intensity of the game against Indiana on March 9. Without that win, Illinois most likely would never have made its eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

But more importantly, the victory gave Illinois fans something to cheer about in the midst of a season filled with injuries, suspensions, almost-but-not-quites, and that infamous decommitment from Eric Gordon. I won’t soon forget how the Illini stuck it to Hoosier coach Kelvin Sampson when it really mattered, or when Shaun Pruitt’s shot with two minutes remaining in overtime gave the team a 53-50 lead.

I’ll admit it was often difficult to watch Illinois not take advantage of opportunities that were right there for the taking. But, seeing the way they responded with everything on the line reminded me of coach Bruce Weber’s team in 2005. Although the Illini eventually ended up being no match for Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten tourney and lost to Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the win against Indiana showed the team’s resolve at a time when its back was up against the wall.

Commentary by: Erin Foley

This article was republished May 7.

CHICAGO – In away contests against Indiana and Iowa, the Illini failed to execute down the stretch, breaking down defensively. Playing against Indiana for the third time this season, it looked as if the same fate would strike again.

But in a fashion similar to how their season has gone, and the ways in which they have continuously showed resolve, Illinois battled back from a four-point deficit with 4:16 remaining to force an overtime period to win a 58-54 decision over Indiana (20-10) on March 9 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Illini’s 12 missed free throws nearly ended the team’s chances of earning an NCAA Tournament berth.

“I’m proud of our kids and our staff, ” head coach Bruce Weber said. “It seemed like earlier in our season, nothing could go right. But, Illinois has 23 wins and they’re hanging in there and they’re playing on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament.”

Senior Warren Carter led the Illini (23-10) with 17 points, while junior center Shaun Pruitt had 16 points and 12 rebounds.