FINAL: Indiana 80, Illinois 64
Cody Zeller scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead No. 3 Indiana past Illinois 80-64 Friday in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Hoosiers (27-5) are off to a good start after claiming their first outright conference title in two decades and earning a first-round bye.
They took control midway through the first half and withstood a mild push in the second, avenging a two-point loss at Illinois (22-12) last month.
That set up a matchup with Michigan or Wisconsin in Saturday’s semifinals.
Zeller had another big game after scoring a season-high 25 in a win at Michigan. He was 9 of 11 from the field and hit all six free throws.
Victor Oladipo added 12 points and 11 rebounds and drew the loudest cheers with a 360-degree fastbreak dunk with 90 seconds left. The Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, he also helped contain Brandon Paul.
Christian Watford scored 15, and the Hoosiers shot 54 percent overall even though they were just 5 of 17 on 3-pointers.
They were able to get good shots, though, because they locked up the Illini on defense and dominated them on the glass 38-26.
Paul finished with 16 points, but most of them came from the free throw line, where he was 11 of 12. Otherwise, it was a rough afternoon. He shot just 2 of 13 after scoring 25 and hitting the winning jumper at the buzzer in the first round against Minnesota.
Tracy Abrams scored 16, but Illinois was out of sync at the start and couldn’t make up for it down the stretch.
The Illini got within single digits for the first time since the early going when D.J. Richardson hit two free throws with 8:17 left to make it 60-52, but Indiana held its ground.
Jordan Hulls whipped a pass to Oladipo underneath for a layup after Abrams missed a 3, and the Hoosiers struck again after Richardson missed from long range. This time, Watford hit from beyond the arc to make it 65-52 with 5:31 remaining, and the Hoosiers fans let out a loud roar and maybe a sigh of relief.
The Hoosiers clicked into gear after a sluggish start and were up by as much as 17 while building a 35-21 halftime lead.
Zeller dominated in the early going, scoring 14 in the half and keying a 12-2 run that bumped their lead from five to 22-7. He scored eight during that stretch, punctuating the run with a put-back and a fastbreak finger roll with 7:33 left after he stole the ball from Paul.
He also finished the half with a neat basket, grabbing the ball in midair and redirecting it into the net after Jeremy Hollowell had his shot blocked by the Illini’s Nnanna Egwu. — AP
Griffey 4-4 0-0 9, Egwu 1-4 0-0 2, Richardson 2-10 4-4 9, Abrams 5-15 4-4 16, Paul 2-13 11-12 16, McLaurin 1-3 0-0 2, Bertrand 5-9 0-1 10, Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Langford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 19-21 64.
Watford 3-6 7-8 15, Zeller 9-11 6-6 24, Hulls 0-5 1-2 1, Ferrell 5-10 2-2 12, Oladipo 4-8 4-4 12, Sheehey 4-4 1-2 11, Mosquera-Perea 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Abell 2-4 0-0 5, Hollowell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 21-24 80.
Halftime—Indiana 35-21. 3-Point Goals—Illinois 5-17 (Abrams 2-5, Griffey 1-1, Richardson 1-5, Paul 1-6), Indiana 5-17 (Sheehey 2-2, Watford 2-3, Abell 1-2, Oladipo 0-2, Hulls 0-3, Ferrell 0-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Illinois 26 (McLaurin 7), Indiana 38 (Oladipo 11). Assists—Illinois 6 (Abrams, Richardson 2), Indiana 16 (Hulls 7). Total Fouls—Illinois 20, Indiana 19. A—NA.
No. 1 Indiana 56, No. 8 Illinois 43 — 10:59 second half
The Illini had a good start to the second half as Tyler Griffey opened the scoring with a three. But Cody Zeller runs the floor for the Hoosiers and gets buckets in transition on the regular.
Big men who run the floor like that are a luxury.
It turned into a track meet early in the second half. I'm not sure Groce liked that from his team, he let them have it during the first media timeout.
Spotted former Illinois AD Ron Guenther hanging around in the bowels of the United Center at halftime.
Illinois is showing signs of life on the offensive end, but Indiana continues to answer with big shots. They've cutout to 10 a few times, but the Hoosiers execute at the other end. Remy Abell stepped up and knocked down a big three.
D.J. Richardson hit his first three a little bit ago. That's 40 games in a row with a three for D.J.
Just as he cut the lead to 10, Christian answered with a tough three-pointer of his own. The Hoosiers keeping their distance and trying to lock up that No. 1 seed.
In the first game against Indiana, Illinois played most of crunch time without Tracy Abrams, who wasn't particularly good that day. He's struggled today. Just playing too fast.
No. 1 Indiana 35, No. 8 Illinois 21 — Halftime
Zeller's outback in the closing seconds ended an impressive first half for the Big Ten champs.
The big man had 14 points and six rebounds to lead all players.
A day after holding Minnesota to 16 points in the first half, the Illini allowed 35.
John Groce was all over Mike Sanzere after he called timeout at the 9:14 mark. He feels like his guys are getting mugged and getting no calls.
Illinois has forced three shot clock violations in the last two days. That gets the coaching staff all warm and fuzzy.
The United Center is packed.
The UC crew was on the floor cleaning up blood during a stop in play, but that didn't stop Oladipo from trying to flop Brandon Paul into third foul. Entertaining stuff.
Cody Zeller sure does seem to cherry-pick a lot.
Sam McLaurin missed a point-blank outback attempt. It's been one of those days for the Illini.
Looks like Michigan will be wearing some of those hideous Adidas uniforms tonight. Notre Dame and Cincinnati have debuted new threads this week and they've been awful.
I don't know who thought those would be a good idea.
Jared Sullinger is back today. He's wearing scarlet. He was wearing Celtics gear yesterday.
Official Mike Scirotto and John Groce have a good relationship. Larry calms Groce down quite a bit.
Cody Zeller has been the best player on both teams. He's got four turnovers.
Illinois didn't shoot well, going 7 for 27 (25.9 percent) from the floor and 1 for 6 (16.7 percent) from deep.
Indiana shot 12 for 27 (44.4) from the floor and 1 for 8 (12.5) from deep.
Each team turned it over eight times. Indiana scored five points off turnovers. Illinois got one.
Brandon Paul led the way with nine points. D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand each had four points.
We'll be back with what likely will be the final half of the Illinois season before the NCAA tournament.
No. 1 Indiana 10, No. 8 Illinois 5 — 11:06 first half
Illinois coach John Groce is wearing the same tie he wore for the Feb. 7 game against the Hoosiers. I think all the Illinois coaches are wearing the same thing they wore for that game.
Bad early sequence for Nnanna Egwu. He turned the ball over in the lost then fouled Christian watford in the lane the next time down. He was subbed out quickly for Sam McLaurin 90 seconds in.
John Groce's kids are sitting behind me. They love the Illini, making lots of noise.
"Go back to the MAC," an Illini fan yelled at Mike Sanzere after a series of early calls went in favor of the Hoosiers.
Victor Oladipo, who was named The Sporting News' National Player of the Year earlier this week, committed two early turnovers.
Tyler Griffey bumped Jordan Hulls early on a screen. Hulls was shaking his arm out after the hit. That's "Vicious Tyler Griffey" for you. Nebraska fans coined that phrase.
Indiana media guy sitting next to me: "That Jordan Hulls, when he learns how to play defense, he's going to be a pretty good player. I'm sure he'll improve that when he gets to the NBA." He was kidding. Jordan Hulls will not play in the NBA, despite what Tom Crean might tell you.
It's been a rough year for Remy Abell. The sophomore is talented, but everything he's tired to do, including an ill-advise fancy pass on a fastbreak, just goes wrong.
Illinois has two field goals on the day. The Illini are 2 for 9 (22.2) percent from the floor and 0 for 1 from three.
Indiana is 3 for 10 and 1 for 5.
Nine combined turnoves so far. It's not been pretty.
Big Ten tournament: No. 8 Illinois (22-11) vs. No. 1 Indiana (26-5) — Tipoff (ESPN)
Indiana fans behind me were talking NCAA tournament and trying to guess Illinois' seed. One guy said the Illini are a 4. He's wrong. Illinois won't be a 4 even if they win the tournament this weekend.
Looks like the Illinois families will be sitting on the side opposite the team benches today. The families were right behind the bench yesterday. John Groce's family has filed in. They're rolling deep.
It's worth noting that his wife, Allison, is an Indiana grad. She is in no way conflicted in her allegiance today.
I see Joseph Bertrand's family, D.J. Richardson's and Tyler Griffey's folks.
The Illinois cheerleaders are practicing their backflips right in front of media row here. It's amazing they don't blow their knees out with those harsh landings.
Rayvonte Rice is here sitting in Section 108 with Brandon Paul's older brother.
One of Brandon Miller's sons is wearing a No. 42 Illinois jersey with "Griffey" on the back. He must be fan of Tyler.
Kenny Battle is in the house, too.
Illinois will go with the same starting lineup as yesterday: Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey, Nnanna Egwu.
Yogi Ferrell, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller get the start for the Hoosiers.
Robert Archibald has made it to the United Center. Here's his take on Indiana fans owning the arena right now: "They've never been a No. 1 seed before, they don't know how to act."
Great atmosphere here.
Big Ten tournament: No. 8 Illinois (22-11) vs. No. 1 Indiana (26-5) — 30 minutes before tipoff (ESPN)
The doors here at the United Center opened at 10 a.m. The first thing heard in the arena after that was "HOO-HOO-HOO, HOOSIERS!" Lots of full-grown adult Indiana fans wearing candy-striped pants. It's just weird.
A member of the media, covering Wisconsin, had some unkind words for the Indiana fans.
It's definitely all Indiana fans right now. Perhaps the Illinois folks are getting hydrated at Joe's on Weed in preparation.
Former NBAer Rick Mahorn just walked by us here. He's a large, large man. I'm guessing he's put on at least 100 pounds since he retired, maybe 150. He's working for a national radio broadcast.
Mike Kitts, Mike Sanzere and Larry Scirotto are your officials today.
I just saw a tweet from an Illinois fan responding to a message that there were a lot of Indiana fans here right now, far outnumbering the Illini showing. "We have jobs."
Seems kind of harsh. I guess that's what trash talking is all about, right?
Indiana's frontcourt guys are going through a pretty rigorous presume routine with managers and assistants using football blocking pads to offer resistance.
The guards are at it and Will Sheehey opened things by missing a two-handed dunk.
The Hoosiers might be worn out by the time the game starts. They're seriously getting after it here in the pregame. I'm told they do think during those open NCAA practices.
Everyone I've talked to today says Indiana needs to get the ball to Zeller. Got to think that's going to be the game plan today.
Big Ten tournament: No. 8 Illinois (22-11) vs. No. 1 Indiana (26-5) — 60 minutes before tipoff (ESPN)
Tyler Griffey was the first Illini on the floor today, carrying a water bottle. Tyler usually shoots early when he gets on the floor, but as we documented yesterday, the basketballs aren't released until the 60-minute mark.
The Illini will wear orange today. Indiana will wear the home whites.
Brandon Paul is having a good time out on the floor as the basketballs are being held hostage. After the Illini went through their stretching routine with Mike Basgier, Paul darted toward the basketballs and pretended to grab one as the Big Ten representative almost sprung into action.
Paul then did a few fake layups then he photo-bombed the ESPN television crew and drew chuckles from Dakich, Tirico and Ponder. He's loose, as are the rest of the guys.
Dakich said on our presume show that if anyone has an advantage today in terms of resting yesterday and playing yesterday, it's Illinois. "Kids like to play," Dakich said. "Old guys like us, we get tired, kids don't get tired."
Dakich said he won't coach anymore unless he starts saying a bunch of bad words on the air and he gets fired. He loves the people with whom he works: Mike Tirico, Bob Wischusen, Samantha Ponder, wife of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Samantha's ring is ridiculously large.
The Illini coaching staff came out today early. They were chatting up official Jim Schipper over near the bench.
On the drive to the United Center this morning, I stopped at the McDonald's on Damen and Chicago Avenue. A man in a pickup truck with Indiana stickers all over the windows got out. He was wearing candy-striped. Seriously. A grown man, maybe in his 50s. Expect to see a lot of that today.
I mentioned yesterday that Jared Sullinger was here. I'd imagine he'll be back today with the Buckeyes in quarterfinal action against Nebraska, which upset Purdue last night. Tim Miles is doing a good job with the Huskers. He's entertaining as heck, too. He's been tweeting photos today. One is of his players taking ice baths after last night's game. Another was his assistant coaches simulating a playing floor in the locker room using tape. He's good for a few quotes.
The IHSA Class 3A and 4A Final Fours are going on this weekend in Peoria. Illinois signees Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn will be in action today with Simeon against Proviso East in a rematch of last year's thrilling title game. SImeon is looking for its fourth straight state title. From the sounds of it, Duke commit Jabari Parker is rounding into form and looks like one of the top players in the country. Parker is allowing the guards to be the playmakers and set him up instead of trying to do everything himself. That's made a big difference.
The AP all-state teams were announced yesterday. Illinois commit Michael Finke was named first-team all-state in Class 3A. The Champaign Centennial forward was joined on the first team by Morgan Park's Billy Garrett, Cahokia's Keenan Minor, Keita Bates-Diop of Normal U-High and East St. Louis' Deshawn Munson. Illinois target Larry Austin Jr. was a second-team pick.
In Class 4A, Illinois signee Malcolm Hill of Belleville East was named to the first-team along with Parker, Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young), Cliff Alexander (Curie) and Sterling Brown (Proviso East). Nunn was a second-team pick, as was Jalen Brunson (Stevenson), a priority for Illinois in the 2015 class.
Big Ten tournament: No. 8 Illinois (22-11) vs. No. 1 Indiana (26-5) — 90 minutes before tipoff (ESPN)
Good morning from the United Center for quarterfinal day of the Big Ten tournament.
What an opening day for Illinois yesterday with Brandon Paul leading the way in the thriller against Minnesota with the walk-off winner at the buzzer. It was a heck of a day for the Paul family as Brandon's parents Lynda and Cliff made the five-hour drive from the United Center immediately after the buzzer-beater to Cleveland to watch their youngest son Darius play in the MAC quarterfinals for Western Michigan.
The Broncos won a cross-state clash with Eastern Michigan 70-55. Darius, the MAC Freshman of the Year, scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards.
The Paul will be back today to watch Brandon play and they'll head back to Cleveland tonight to watch Darius play in the semifinal against an Ohio team that was coached last season by John Groce. Some serious dedication from the Pauls.
Paul's buzzer-beater was the second for the Illini in the history of the Big Ten tournament. Cory Bradford broke Indiana's hearts with a walk-off winner in 2000 in Bob Knight's last Big Ten game.
It was the third buzzer-beater for the Illini this season. D.J. Richardson beat Hawaii with a three and, of course, Tyler Griffey's layup beat today's opponent Indiana.
I mentioned this on Twitter last night: Illinois' run to the Maui Invitational title began with Richardson's buzzer-beater. Might they carry the momentum from yesterday over into today?
Paul was all the talk in Illinois' cramped locker room yesterday. Can the Big Ten folks get the Illini a bigger locker room? Surely the Chicago media is going to cover the heck out of this team, there needs to be more room in there to maneuver.
Back to business, everyone was raving about Paul's performance yesterday. There was no doubt, with the way the game unfolded, who was going to have the ball in his hands on the last possession.
"It’s that time of year where big-time players make big-time plays," Illinois assistant coach Dustin Ford said. "We talk to our guys about that. March is that time of year where players step up and make plays. As a coach, you try to stay out of their way as much as possible. He made a big-time shot at the end of the game. I tip my hat to him. That’s what seniors do and hopefully he’s got a few more left in his system."
ESPN's Dan Dakich was impressed, too. I'll clean up what Dakich said, but use your imagination. "Get that (darn) ball in the hands of your best player and everyone else get the (heck) out of the way."
Paul's shot was No. 1 on "SportsCenter's" top plays last night, I'm told.
Dakich is on the call this morning with Mike Tirico and Samantha Ponder.
Jumping on the presume show with Loren Tate and Steve Kelly. I'll be back soon.