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.