The Fighting Illini got revenge for an earlier defeat at the hands of the Hoosiers and improved their chances for an NCAA tournament bid on Saturday by dominating Indiana 72-48 in Champaign.
The victory, which brought Illinois to a .500 record in the Big Ten, was something the Illini badly needed after starting the season in the Associated Press Top 25, only to falter in conference play.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – Demetri McCamey scored 22 points and Mike Davis added 13 to lead Illinois past Indiana 72-48 Saturday.
The win gives the Illini (19-12, 9-9 Big Ten) a .500 record in conference play and improves their resume for a spot in the NCAA tournament. It also give Illinois a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament next week in Indianapolis.
Illinois never trailed and opened up a 19-point lead at 34-15 on a McCamey layup with just over six minutes left in the first half.
The lead grew to as much as 29 at 72-43 late in the second half on a bucket by reserve Joseph Bertrand.
Illinois’ critics might point out that the opposition was only Indiana, a team that has now lost eight in a row and is guaranteed to at least share last place in the conference.
But McCamey and Davis looked from the early minutes Saturday like players with something to prove.
They are two of the four seniors — along with Mike Tisdale and Bill Cole — on a team that has been pointing for a long time to this year as the payoff to an up-and-down five seasons since Illinois lost the 2005 NCAA final. The Illini have missed the tournament twice since then and exited early two more times.
Instead, after starting the year in the Associated Press Top 25, the Illini needed a win Saturday just to give themselves that .500 record in the Big Ten and avoid an embarrassing second loss this season to the Hoosiers (12-19, 3-15).
McCamey hit a pair of early 3-pointers that, with Indiana hanging close, turned small leads into big ones. He had 16 points by halftime. Davis had a quiet 11 points in the first 20 minutes that, on another night, would have made him the star of the game.
The shot, though, that might have crippled Indiana most was a layup with 12:12 to play in the half.
It came off a Hoosiers turnover and McCamey, on the break, found the net and drew a foul by Jeremiah Rivers.
The free throw made the score 21-9 and the Hoosiers struggled to get any closer the rest of the half.
With 6:35 to play in the first half, McCamey put on a mini one-man offensive clinic. Running the Illini offense from the right side of the, key McCamey dribbled to Victor Oladipo’s right, then his left, before finally going by the guard and firing a pass at Davis that the forward wasn’t ready to handle. Davis just managed to hold onto the ball, kicking it back out to the perimeter where Bill Cole spotted McCamey sprinting toward the basket from the left baseline and hit him for a layup. The Illini were up by 34-15, and Indiana didn’t have much of an answer.
Less than a minute later, Davis fought through two Hoosiers for an offensive rebound that he turned into a short basket and, drawing the foul, put the Illini up 37-18.
The Hoosiers were led by Verdell Jones’ 12. Jordan Hulls was held to four points — and was 0 for 7 from the field — after scoring 18 in a win over the Illini in their last meeting in January.
Indiana hit just 31.6 percent of its shots Saturday, including a dismal 24.1 percent in the second half. The Hoosiers were particularly bad from the 3-pointg line, connecting on just 3-of-17 attempts.
Davis and Tisdale each added nine rebounds.
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