Indiana v Illinois

Stating the obvious: beating Indiana was season-saving for Illinois


Illinois was in massive trouble heading into Thursday’s game with No. 1 Indiana.

After climbing their way into the top 15 of the national rankings with wins over Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State, the Illini simply fell off a cliff. They lost eight of 11 games as they seemingly lost the ability to shoot the three, which is a major problem considering their entire system is more or less built around the three-ball.

They don’t defend all that well.

They don’t really have a low post scoring presence.

They have a bunch of guys that like to chuck up threes, and it had gotten to the point that it seemed like Illinois’ confidence was so low those threes would never start going down again.

And then Indiana came to town, Illinois reeled off a 13-2 run to close the game, Cody Zeller had his “Tyler moment“, and all of a sudden, the Illini are right back into the thick of things with a 74-72 upset win over the Hoosiers.

It should really go without saying just how important this win was for the Illini, and not just because the easiest way to jumpstart team-wide confidence is by coming from behind to knock off the No. 1 team in the country. They visit Minnesota on Saturday. They still have road trips to Michigan and Ohio State, as well. Those aren’t going to be easy games to win. And seeing as Illinois already has losses to Purdue and Northwestern, with the latter coming at home, assuming they would take care of the other five Big Ten teams on their schedule was anything but a guarantee.

And it still isn’t, but beating the team’s you’re supposed to beat is easier to do when you’ve not in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

But let’s assume that they do while losing on the road to Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State. The Illini will be sitting at 8-10, but they’ll have one of the toughest schedules in the country, an RPI that should be somewhere around the low 40’s or high 30’s, and wins over Ohio State, Indiana, Butler and at Gonzaga.

That’s a tournament profile, especially in a season with a weak bubble.

So yeah.

This was a pretty important win.


You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.