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Culture Shock

Hoosiers Stun Top Seeded Illini in Big Ten Quarterfinals, Secure NCAA Tournament Bid

A nailbiter from start to finish. Indiana Men’s Basketball locked in on defense and the Hoosiers beat the Illini to most likely secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.


Indiana defeated Illinois 65-63 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Hoosiers punched their spot to the Big Ten Tournament Semifinal for the first time since 2013. 


For the Hoosiers, it all started on the defensive end. Indiana guards were able to pressure Kofi Cockburn and recover back out to shooters. The Hoosiers held the Illini to just 35.7% from the field. In the first matchup this year Illinois shot over 40% from the field and three-point range.


“I think our team right now is playing with a lot of confidence,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “And Coach [Mike] Woodson said it all year, he said this isn't last year's team.”


For almost the entire game, it stayed within a few points with neither team able to sustain a long run. A lot of that had to do with both teams struggling to finish around the rim with Indiana 13-18 and Illinois 10-22 on layups. 


Even with the stats showing the Illini’s struggles around the rim, the Hoosiers' help defense was terrific. Indiana was also able to hold Illinois without a field goal for more than 5 minutes to end the game. Indiana was 3-7 in games decided in overtime or by six points or less entering Friday, but today was different.


“It's been -- for me it's been fun because it's kind of been a rollercoaster ride watching these guys develop over this season so far, but the thing that I like about our team, man, we are competitive,” coach Mike Woodson said. “Even though we've lost a lot of close games, we are very, very competitive.”


Another key part of the game was free throw shooting. The Illini came in 11th in free throw percentage in the Big Ten while the Hoosiers ranked last. Friday, Illinois made just 15 of their 23 free throws. However, Kofi Cockburn who has sometimes struggled at the free throw line went 7-8 for the game. For the season Jackson-Davis has shot 66.7% from the line but with just 26.1 seconds left he was able to knock down a pair of free throws to give Indiana a 1 point lead.


“It was just belief,” Jackson-Davis said. “I've been working on my free-throw routine, and it was something that I shoot a hundred free throws with some of our coaches every day, so I was just thinking of practice and trying to get that scenario in my head, that I'm just in practice knocking them down, so that's what I did.”


In the first matchup between these two teams Jackson-Davis was dominated by Cockburn, but today Jackson-Davis held his own. Today, he played confidently against Cockburn and scored 21 points with great efficiency. And most importantly as much as the Hoosiers have struggled this year, it looks like they will be an NCAA tournament team.


“I've had an opportunity, like you said, to build young teams like in Atlanta and I know what the grind is like,” Woodson said. “It's just getting guys to believe in what you do on and off the court, both ends of the floor. Our guys have bought into my stuff, I guess you can say, and my stuff ain't always the greatest, but it's working for us now.”


Indiana’s next opponent will be Iowa in the Semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, 3/12. The Hawkeyes are the 5th seed in Indianapolis. The game is set to tip at 1:00 PM ET. The game can be heard on WIUX 99.1 FM and online HERE with Sam Newcombe and Griffin Epstein on the call from the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.


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