BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Bruce Weber doesn’t like playing Indiana, and he probably won’t like it even more after what happened to Illinois on Thursday night at Assembly Hall.
The Illini lost to the No. 23 Hoosiers 84-71, falling to sixth in the Big Ten.
“Our kids played hard and they battled and they kept fighting,” Weber said. “We didn’t adjust enough, and we have to have everybody play well at the same time. Somewhere, we have to put it all together and get a road win someplace.”
Illinois (16-8, 5-6) was coming off a 74-70 loss Sunday against Northwestern, the first victory for NU in Champaign since 1999.
If anyone thought the NU loss was an aberration, it might have been Illinois center Meyers Leonard, who spouted off a bit to the State Journal-Register of Springfield earlier in the week.
“Everyone knows we’re better than Northwestern,” Leonard said.
But Illinois wasn’t better than Indiana, and Leonard wasn’t better than 6-11 Indiana freshman Cody Zeller.
The 7-1 Leonard found himself in the middle of the most anticipated matchup of the week against Zeller in the post. Leonard was winning the battle, at least in the scoring department, when he left the game with 12:20 to play after picking up his fourth foul.
“Meyers was good when we got [the ball] to him, and he lost his poise a little bit,” Weber said. “It’s about growing up and being a big man in the Big Ten. They had that little run [when Leonard was on the bench], and they got it to Zeller, and [Leonard] has to learn to do it without fouling. He’s still learning and trying to figure it all out.”
Leonard lasted until there was 3:09 left, when he fouled out. He finished with 17 points, three assists, three blocks and three rebounds. Leonard had 15 points at the half before getting into foul trouble.
Zeller led Indiana (19-6, 7-6) with 22 points and went 12-for-14 from the free-throw line. He had only three rebounds.
The discrepancy from the free-throw line was telling for Illinois. Indiana went 35-for-42 from the line; Illinois was 12-for-15.
“We were fouling, and the refs were calling good fouls,” said D.J. Richardson, who led the Illini with 19 points. “We made some stupid fouls in the first half, but the refs were also calling fouls our way, and we have to do a better job of attacking the basket.”
Illinois freshman Tracy Abrams left the game briefly early in the second half when he injured his right wrist. Abrams had the wrist taped and went back into the game about two minutes later.
He was able to stay in the game and finished with eight points and two assists.
“I hurt it a few games ago, and it isn’t a big deal,” Abrams said. “I fell on it and someone stepped on it, but I’m fine.”