Illinois basketball traveled to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in hopes to defend their Big Ten Tournament title.
The Illini matched up with the No. 8 Indiana Hoosiers after they came back from 17 points down to shock Michigan the day before. Indiana stayed hot, though, upsetting the No. 1 seed Illini, 65-63.
Illinois had a chance to take the lead with under five seconds left, but Andre Curbelo missed a go-ahead layup off a Miller Kopp missed free throw.
Here are the grades from the Illinois basketball loss to Indiana.
The Illinois offense struggled badly at times in this one. The Illini started 2-of-12 from the field. They also had two stretches during the game where they went five minutes and eight minutes without a field goal. That just cannot happen. The Illini also shot 11-of-25 at the rim against Indiana, so Andre Curbelo missing a layup at the end of the game was fitting.
Illinois usually has an advantage over other team’s guards, but that just wasn’t the case in this one. Trent Fraizer, Alfonso Plummer, and Andre Curbelo shot a combined 7-of-29 from the field. Fraizer also had three turnovers, including a huge one down the stretch when he and Coleman Hawkins had a miscommunication.
There were a couple of bright spots on Friday in Kofi Cockburn and Hawkins. Kofi did what he does best and scored 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds, three on the offensive end. Hawkins had his best game of the season scoring 18 points and knocking down four three-pointers. Hawkins started in place of the injured Jacob Grandison for the second straight game.
I thought the Illini defended really well in this one. They played so bad offensively but were able to stay in the game. That’s a great sign heading into the NCAA tournament.
Hawkins being inserted into the lineup has done fantastic things for the defense during these last two games. Just his length and athleticism is a game-changer guarding other team’s No. 4 position.
Illinois did struggle to contain Trayce Jackson-Davis however. He had the best game of his career against the Illini scoring 21 points, but he was scared to take on the challenge of Kofi Cockburn.
It wasn’t the Big Ten Tournament title finish we all wanted, but thinking on it, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to this team. Head coach Brad Underwood even said it himself, they were drained last season after that run to a Big Ten Tournament title. The Illini get some must needed rest, as they can refocus on the NCAA tournament.
It seems that the Illini are pretty locked into a No. 4 seed in the tournament, maybe a No. 5 ate the worst. I still believe the Illini can make a run to the Final 4. They need everyone to be at their best, and the wild card of Curbelo needs to be the player we all know he can be.