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The Hoosiers Sweep the Illini



Feb 18, 2023; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) dribbles the ball while Indiana Hoosiers forward Miller Kopp (12) defends in the second half at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers complete the sweep.

After leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. was announced out with a concussion, Illinois chances against Indiana looked bleak. Instead, it was another thrilling chapter in one of the Big Ten’s oldest and most prominent matchups. Indiana and Illinois traded punches for 40 minutes in a nail-biter in Bloomington, with the Hoosiers coming out on top 69-67. With this win, the Hoosiers complete the season sweep of the Illini and have won their last 3 meetings.

1. Maxed Mayer

In the first matchup between these games, Matt Mayer was sick and went scoreless. He was sick in another way Saturday, but a way that Illini would much prefer. Mayer exploded in the first half with sixteen points, a dazzling offensive display. He hit 4 threes, attacked mismatches, and was a force defensively as well. Mayer finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and a steal. With Shannon out Illinois needed Mayer to step up, but despite getting to the free throw line, Mayer went 1-7 from the field in the second half. At 6’9″ he expends a lot of energy on both ends, especially when he’s aggressive offensively. Obviously at full strength this won’t be as much of an issue, but today shows both how much of a game changer he can be, and some of his natural limitations.

2. Hot and Cold

In the preview I mentioned Illinois lack of discretion when it comes to getting up three pointers despite their middling percentage. The Illini finished with 20 attempts from downtown, going 6-20. In the first half the Illini were hitting, going 6-12. In the second half, well you do the math, they were not. It was not for a lack of good looks either, with Mayer, Luke Goode and RJ Melendez missing open looks capped off by Melendez’s miss at the end of regulation.

While missing Shannon Jr. certainly hurts their shooting, Illinois lack of consistency from deep is a real concern. They have a lot of guys that can get hot, but not a lot of guys who consistently make multiple game after game. While bad shooting isn’t some guarantee of an early tournament exit, it is something that can definitely sink the Illini against the best teams in the nation. In the end it put too much pressure on their defense and led to them not being able to close it out.

3. Above the Rim

There’s nothing else to say other than that was an incredible game. Both teams battled through adversity to put on a great show in front of a great crowd at Assembly Hall. In the first matchup Illinois got blasted in the paint and around the rim, but in this one Illinois brought a little more oomph, finishing with nine blocks and a couple of really impressive dunks.

Indiana rode their All American and won the battle on the boards and paint in the end, but the athleticism of this team will be a real difference maker against anyone they face down the stretch. Their length and athleticism forced 5 turnovers by Trayce Jackson-Davis, as Illinois doubled him often. It wasn’t enough, but I can’t help but enjoy the aerial combat between these two Big Ten titans.

There’s no shame in losing on the road without your best player. Despite that, this will feel like a missed opportunity for this group’s signature conference win on the resume considering how well they played down Shannon. The Illini now have a three-game home stretch, with the rescheduled Minnesota game kicking it off. If the Illini can complete the season sweep of the Gophers, all three games are very winnable and can help Illinois get some mojo going into the postseason. After the Hoosier’s completed the sweep of the Illini, you can only hope that this is used as a spring board for Brad Underwood’s squad.

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.