for this game

Illinois withstands Indiana's second-half surge

Feb 16, 2009 - 2:54 AM BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (Ticker) -- With the game slipping out of its control, Illinois called a much-needed timeout, settled down and found its composure.

Then Chester Frazier calmly buried a 3-pointer from the left wing, and the Fighting Illini avoided a huge letdown.

The 20th-ranked Illini withstood a furious second-half rally Sunday by Indiana, escaping with a 65-52 triumph to keep pace in the competitive Big Ten Conference.

Illinois (21-5, 9-4) led by as many as 22 points in the first half alone but got complacent after the break, letting the Hoosiers right back in.

"I thought the first seven, eight minutes was fine; you know they were going to make a run," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "They weren't going to stop and lay down ... but we survived it, then they changed defense and that's where I thought we got a little tentative. Then we didn't guard and I kept telling them that it doesn't matter what we do on offense."

Thanks to heightened defensive pressure and a hot shooting performance by Matt Roth, they climbed to within single digits after a second-half charge.

"They did a great job of guarding (Roth) early," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They were putting so much pressure on us that the one or two things we could find him in, we were being pressured so hard that we couldn't get it there. It is like anything else, it will loosen up at some point. So we had to stick to what we were trying to do."

Malik Story's layup with 6:27 remaining cut Indiana's deficit to just 54-48, but that's as close as it would get.

Less than a minute later, Weber called a timeout - and that seemed to be just what his team needed. In what may have been the biggest possession of the afternoon, Mike Tisdale found Frazier at the arc, and the senior guard connected, pushing the lead to 57-48 and putting an end to Illinois' second-half shooting woes.

Illinois closed the game in the final minutes with clutch foul shooting - an area that was Indiana's Achilles' heel all afternoon. The Hoosiers (6-18, 1-11) were just 11-of-24 from the free-throw line.

Mike Davis paced Illinois with 16 points and 12 boards, while Frazier added nine, six and seven assists.

The Illini made it look easy early, with Davis and Tisdale leading the way. The two sophomores scored the team's first 10 points as the Illini stormed out to a quick lead. Trent Meacham followed with a 3-pointer - his only points of the game.

"Well, we are not going to come in just match up with that. We have to come in and we have to play with a fierceness; we have to play with a toughness," Crean said. "The first 20 minutes, we made far too many mistakes to give us a shot. We knew they would come out with great pressure; that is what they do. It is what teams do to us right now."

Things got out of hand later in the first half as Davis' layup sparked a 17-3 run. Reserve guard Alex Legion capped the spurt with a 3-pointer to open up a 34-13 cushion.

"I challenged our guys to have a sense of urgency at the start of the game, especially on the road," Weber said. "I thought we did that. I couldn't be more pleased with the first half. We guarded people, moved the basketball. We kept reminding them, how did we get here. It's by playing hard."

With the win, Illinois climbed 1 1/2 games behind first-place Michigan State (20-4, 10-2) in the conference standings. The Spartans defeated the Illini in a January 17 meeting, with a rematch in Champaign on tap for March 1.

Meanwhile, the tough conference slate continued for Indiana, which finally earned its first Big Ten victory on February 4 against Iowa but has since lost three straight. Roth led Indiana with 13 points in this one, going 3-of-6 from the arc.