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Indiana Basketball squanders another tremendous opportunity in close loss to Illinois

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Sixth-year senior point guard Xavier Johnson finished with 14 points in the loss against Illinois. © Indiana University Athletics

CHAMPAIGN, Il. — Indiana Basketball squandered another tremendous opportunity Saturday as they lost 70-62 to No. 10 Illinois at State Farm Center.

On the road against a top-ten team, Indiana had the chance to earn that signature win they’ve been chasing all year, but could not finish the job. We are 20 games into the season and Indiana still does not have a quad-1 victory, as they dropped to 0-6 in quad-1 games.

The loss felt eerily similar to their game against Kansas in December where the Hoosiers were in control for the majority of the game, before Kansas pulled ahead in the final minutes.

Indiana struggled to finish both halves and it cost them today. After leading for the first 17 minutes of the game, a 9-0 Illinois run put them up by eight with under a minute to go, before Indiana was able to cut the deficit in half before the break.

Similar to the first half, a late run from Illinois was enough to get them the victory. After Indiana tied the game at 62 with just over a minute to go, Illinois closed the game on an 8-0 run.

After controlling the game for the majority of both halves, their inability to close will be the main takeaway from another road loss.

Indiana had chances down the stretch to win the game, but they were unable to take advantage of the opportunity.

Down by two with 54 seconds left, Xavier Johnson had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line but missed both free throws.

“That was the difference,” Mike Woodson said about the missed free throws. “Close games on the road, you got to make free throws.”

Indiana’s free throw struggles have been a recurring theme for this team and it hurt them once again. They shot 12-22 from the free throw line in the loss as their shooting struggles were on full display in the loss.

Indiana basketball did not make a single three in the loss, as they shot 0-9 from beyond the arc.

“It’s a fine line in winning on the road. You got to do almost everything right, like make your free throws,” Woodson said about the loss. “Don’t go 0-for-9 from (the three-point line).”

It was the first time the Hoosiers went without making a three since February of 2010 when they went 0-5 from three in a 32-point home loss against Wisconsin.

Despite the shooting struggles, Indiana was able to stay in the game, largely because of their defense.

Indiana did a great job against Illinois’ leading scorer Terrence Shannon. Shannon shot 2-10 from the field and finished with 12 points.

They also did a good job against Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins was shot 4-12 from the field.

The Hoosiers held the Fighting Illini offense in check all game as they shot 37% from the field as a team. Woodson went to a smaller lineup with Kel’el Ware missing the game due to injury, which gave them more versatility in their ability to switch on defense.

Despite their incredible defensive performance, it was not enough as they lost their third straight game.

“I thought we were solid all the way through,” Woodson said about his team’s effort. “We just didn’t make the plays coming down the stretch.”

Indiana basketball had chances to win this one, but their inability to finish caused their great effort to go unrewarded.

“When you’re on the road you got to do almost everything right to come out with the win,” Woodson said postgame.

Indiana is now 2-6 away from Assembly Hall this season, as their struggles away from home continue.

On the season Indiana now sits at 12-8 and 4-5 in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers will have a chance to bounce back and end their losing streak when they host Iowa on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.

SEE ALSO: Coach Q&A: Mike Woodson reacts to Indiana basketball’s 70-62 loss against Illinois

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for HoosierIllustrated.com and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.

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