Effort. Often the difference between Championship teams and Final Four teams, the Illini (7-3, 3-1 Big Ten) showed great effort to grind out a win against Indiana (5-4, 0-2 Big Ten) and end the calendar year on a high note.
A true display of grit and grind, this game tested the endurance and physicality of both teams. Scoring was difficult for both teams and Illinois had to work for every bucket. This Illini team has shown its ability to not only play different styles of basketball but win games playing different ways this year. “It’s nice to be able to win games in a lot of different fashions.” head coach Brad Underwood said. The Penn State game was much more a free flowing game where offense fast and often; the exact opposite of today's game. Underwood spoke on his team's ability to win in different ways. “That’s what I’m proud of. I think we are wired for that a little bit.”
The Illini were led by Ayo Dosunmu’s second 30 point game in a row and third on the season. The junior finished with 30 points and five assists on 11-for-17 shooting in 35 minutes in a dominant display. Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn finished with another double-double totaling 15 points and 15 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Freshman Andre Curbelo had another good game contributing five points, six rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
The Hoosiers were paced by Armaan Franklin who poured in 23 points on five threes today. The Illini limited the Hoosiers’ All-American candidate Trayce Jackson-Davis to just 11 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. Jackson-Davis is averaging 21 points per game and is considered one of the best in the Big Ten.
The Illini are now 3-1 in league play and look like contenders for the Big Ten title. It is still early in the season and the Illini have experienced early season wobbles but have always found a way to bounce back. The team is starting to find a rhythm and is noticeably more confident on the floor and it is translating to wins. The Illini now have a week off before the take on Purdue at home on January 2nd.