Indiana starts fast to bury Illini, snap three-game losing streak

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Indiana starts fast to bury Illini, snap three-game losing streak

They say that it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Well, Saturday in Bloomington, it was all about how Illinois and Indiana started.

The Hoosiers blitzed the Illini in the game's opening few minutes, sprinting out to a 15-0 lead and holding onto that big advantage for the majority of the remainder to grab a 96-80 win and snap a three-game losing streak.

The nightmarish start for Illinois saw it miss its first eight shots and turn the ball over a handful of times, a situation made markedly worse when star Malcolm Hill went to bench early with three fouls in the first five minutes.

Indiana kept pouring it on, too, growing that lead as large as 22 in the first half thanks to red-hot shooting. The Big Ten's top offensive team looked every bit of it, scoring 48 points in the first half and shooting 58.6 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes. Robert Johnson alone had 13 points on six made baskets. The Illini were quite the opposite, shooting just 29.2 percent in the opening period and turning the ball over seven times, which led to 15 points for the Hoosiers.

Illinois fared much better after halftime, at least on the offensive end, shooting 56.7 percent from the field over the final few minutes. The Illini, spurred by having Hill on the floor, made a few charges and whittled the Hoosiers' massive lead, which again reached 22 in the second half, down to 12 with more than 11 minutes still to play. But Indiana responded with a big James Blackmon Jr. triple, the first three of 10 straight for the Hoosiers, who again led by 22.

The Illini again chopped the big lead down, using a 13-2 burst to make it a nine-point game on Jalen Coleman-Lands' fifth 3-pointer of the game with under six minutes to play. But Illinois' shooting fell off a cliff from there, and Indiana capitalized. Thomas Bryant's 3 with about four minutes to go served as the dagger, making it a 14-point lead, but the Illini were more to blame, going more than four minutes without a basket after getting the deficit to single digits.

Defense cost Illinois in this one, as Indiana had no trouble racking up some big offensive numbers, scoring 90-plus points for the sixth time this season and shooting a stellar 59.2 percent on the afternoon. The Hoosiers ended up with 20 points off nine Illini turnovers and were tremendously efficient on offense, assisting on 22 of their 29 made baskets and hitting 13 3-pointers on the game.

Hill and Coleman-Lands each finished with 21 points for the Illini, Coleman-Lands splashing home five triples and Hill getting 11 from the free-throw line. Maverick Morgan was a point off his season-best with 18.

Blackmon had a game-high 25 points with five made 3s for Indiana, Bryant added 20, Johnson finished with 18 and OG Anunoby had 12.

Indiana's win snapped a three-game losing streak that had the Hoosiers looking anything but a contender. Indiana sits at 11-5 on the season and 1-2 in Big Ten play with a trip to Maryland coming Tuesday.

Illinois dropped to 11-5 with the loss, 1-2 in the Big Ten. Next up for John Groce's team is a home game against Michigan on Wednesday.

Illini season ends in NIT loss to Central Florida

Illini season ends in NIT loss to Central Florida

Well, at least the good news for the Illini is that the Brad Underwood Era can officially begin.

Illinois' 2016-17 campaign came to an end Wednesday night with a 68-58 loss to Central Florida in the NIT quarterfinals.

The Knights blitzed the Illini early, outscoring them 34-19 in the first half, and the lead stayed sizable until a late rally by the Illini got the gap down to as little as six in the closing minutes. But the Knights didn't let the Illini get any closer than that.

Illinois shot a miserable 30.6 percent on the night and had just one player score in double figures.

That player was Malcolm Hill, who had a monster game in the final outing of his college career. Hill scored 29 points, accounting for exactly half his team's total, and splashed home six 3-pointers.

Hill finished his career with 1,846 points, third on the program's all-time scoring list behind Deon Thomas and Kiwane Garris.

Tracy Abrams' career also ended Wednesday night. Abrams had been with the program for the last six seasons, finally playing his senior season this year after missing each of the last two campaigns with season-ending injuries.

The book closed on the John Groce Era. While the former head coach was fired prior to the Illini's three-game stay in this year's NIT, this was the official end of his five-year era in charge of the program.

Underwood, who was introduced as the program's new leader Monday, can now officially begin his tenure.

Big Ten Talk Podcast: Brad Underwood arrives in Champaign as new Illini head coach

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Big Ten Talk Podcast: Brad Underwood arrives in Champaign as new Illini head coach

The Illini have a new leader.

In the latest edition of the Big Ten Talk Podcast, CSN's Vinnie Duber chats with new Illinois head basketball coach Brad Underwood and Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman as well as former Illini great Kendall Gill about Underwood's arrival as the new head basketball coach in Champaign.

Plus, Duber and Matt Maniscalco talk about the end of Northwestern's dream season and the three Big Ten teams remaining in the NCAA tournament.

Take a listen to the latest episode below.