Illini Exit Early From Big Ten Tourney - NBC Chicago

Illini Exit Early From Big Ten Tourney

Indiana 80, Illinois 64



    Illini Exit Early From Big Ten Tourney
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    Illinois couldn't overcome one of the top-ranked teams in the country.

    The Illini have more Big Ten tournament wins than any other team in the conference, but Friday they made their earliest exit since the tournament has been held in Chicago.

    Minutes after Brandon Paul's game winning jump shot over Minnesota Thursday, an Illinois offical exhaled "you never want to be the team that leaves the tournament before other teams arrive!"

    But Friday, the team with more Big Ten tournament wins than any other, exited after an 80-64 quarterfinal loss to Indiana for Illinois earliest exit from the tournament when it's been held in Chicago.

    "The tale of two halves," Illinois Coach John Groce said. "The first half great defense, not so good offense. The second half very good on offense not very good defensively."

    Maybe so, but the Hoosiers opened the game on a 22-7 run and never looked back building a 20-point deficit the Illini couldn't crack.

    Seven foot sophomore Cody Zeller proved too much for the Illini inside, scoring a game-high 24 points on 81 percent shooting.

    Indiana outrebounded Illinoi 38-26, but doubled the Illini on the defensive boards 27-13. Shooting continued to plague Illinois who shot a season low 25.9 percent from the field.

    "The physicality stepped up a notch," Illinois senior Brandon Paul said, who along with Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 16 points. "At the same time the refs have to blow the whistle...we're not playing football out there."

    Illinois is now 0-4 all time against No.1 seeds in the Big Ten Tournament, while Indiana reaches its first semifinal since 2006.

    The Illini now look to Selection Sunday to keep their season going. They've worn wristbands since the preseason reading "3-19-13" -- the date the NCAA tournament begins.