Another week, another No. 1 goes down.
Indiana thought it would avoid the top-ranked curse of 2013 when it led Illinois for almost the entire game. However, an eight-point lead evaporated in the final three minutes, and a Tyler Griffey layup at the buzzer gave Illinois a 74-72 win.
Indiana did everything right for 37 minutes. The Hoosiers shot 50 percent from the field, nearly 53 percent from 3-point range, and only missed one free throw all night. However, D.J. Richardson scored eight points in about 90 seconds down the stretch, and then Brandon Paul tied it up on two free throws. Victor Oladipo turned it over on the final possession, giving Illinois one final shot. Cody Zeller was completely lost on the play, allowing Griffey to slip to the basket without anyone near him.
Indiana will likely drop out of the No. 1 spot next week, marking the fifth week in a row that we will have a different team at the top of the rankings.
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The Hoosiers still have as much talent as anyone in the country, but their lack of a killer instinct is still apparent. There have been a few instances this season where they should have pulled away down the stretch but allowed lesser teams to stay in games. It finally caught up to them Thursday night. Last weekend's performance against Michigan masked this, but it could be something that hinders them in the NCAA tournament.
Late in the game, Indiana's offense looked completely different than it did all game. The Hoosiers settled for jumpers and didn't make any effort at getting the ball around the basket. On the last possession, they ran an isolation play for Oladipo -- even though running their normal offense had worked effectively throughout the game. Oladipo is an outstanding player, but he's not a dominant one-on-one player.
As for Illinois, this is a complete season-saver. Had the Illini lost this one, they would have been 2-8 in the Big Ten with road games at Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State still on the schedule. They are just 3-7 now, but there are opportunities to pick up a few wins. They still face Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State and Nebraska -- and they will also have to get one of those aforementioned road wins. It's an uphill fight, for sure, but a loss on Thursday would have essentially ended their hopes. Illinois now has wins over Gonzaga, Ohio State, Indiana and Butler.
And in this unpredictable season, who's to say Illinois can't turn it around?
As long as it's never ranked No. 1, of course.
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