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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Indiana 84, Illinois 71

By Scott Powers

Here’s a quick look at No. 23 Indiana’s 84-71 win over Illinois on Thursday.

How it happened: The officials allowed Illinois and Indiana to play physical early, but permitted less as the game progressed. The Hoosiers especially took advantage of the free-throw line. They were 35-of-42 from the charity stripe compared to Illinois being 12-of-15. Indiana also played some of its best basketball late in the game. After Illinois pulled within 62-59, Indiana scored on eight consecutive possessions, took a 77-65 lead and never looked back.

What it means: Illinois drops to under .500 in the conference for the first time this season. The Illini are now 5-6, and their road ahead doesn’t get any easier. They travel to Michigan on Sunday and have a total of three road games in their next four contests. Illinois hasn’t been two games under .500 in the Big Ten since the 2007-2008 season. With the win, Indiana goes to 7-6 in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers put themselves securely in the top five teams in the conference.

Player of the game: Indiana’s Cody Zeller won the battle of the touted post players. Zeller had a game-high 22 points. He also helped foul out Illinois center Meyers Leonard. Leonard scored nine of Illinois’ first 16 points, but he was ineffective for most of the game from there on. Leonard finished with 17 points and fouled out with 3:09 remaining.

Illinois player of the game: D.J. Richardson tried to keep the Illini in the game with his 3-point shooting. He finished with a team-high 19 points.

What’s next: Illinois stays on the road and heads to Michigan on Sunday. Indiana doesn’t play again until it hosts Northwestern on Wednesday.