“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” (King Henry; Henry IV by William Shakespeare)
That’s a fitting statement to use when it comes to the top of the national polls this season, with No. 1 Indiana becoming the most recent team to fall.
A Tyler Griffey layup on an out of bounds play as time expired gave Illinois a much-needed 74-72 victory over the Hoosiers in Champaign.
Griffey’s layup capped a comeback that Fighting Illini fans won’t forget for some time, as Illinois trailed by as many as 13 in the second half before making their run. The biggest issue for Indiana late was the fact that Tom Crean’s team went cold at the worst possible time.
Indiana scored just two points over the final 3:36 of the game, with those coming by way of a Victor Oladipo layup with 52 seconds remaining. All-America center Cody Zeller didn’t attempt a single shot during that stretch, with the Hoosiers taking jump shots as opposed to testing Illinois’ defensive ability by way of dribble penetration or entry passes into the post.
Zeller finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds and Will Sheehey added 13 off the bench, but Indiana’s 14 turnovers (and that late cold stretch) gave Illinois opportunities to remain close enough to pull off their comeback. Illinois would convert these turnovers into 28 points, with Indiana scoring 16 points off of ten Fighting Illini turnovers.
The question regarding Indiana at this stage is whether or not there should be concern about their play on the road. Indiana hasn’t beaten an NCAA tournament-caliber team on the road this season, and next up is a trip to Columbus to take on No. 10 Ohio State.
Obviously NCAA tournament games are played on neutral courts, but could the lack of quality road victories lead to the Hoosiers ending up with a route to the Final Four that requires more travel than they’d prefer (landing in the Midwest Region, which culminates in Indianapolis)?
The goal for ay team is to sit atop the polls in early April, and if Indiana’s to accomplish that they have to do a better job of closing teams out. Tonight, Indiana left the door open and Illinois made them pay for it.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.