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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Illinois picks up ugly win over Indiana

Jan. 28—CHAMPAIGN — In the Big Ten Standings, teams are only ranked by their wins and their losses — style points do not apply.

Good thing for Illinois.

On Saturday afternoon the 10th-rated Fighting Illini found a way in the final minutes to pull out a 70-62 triumph over the Indiana Hoosiers before a sold-out crowd of 15,544 at the State Farm Center.

"We went from a more eye-pleasing loss at Northwestern (96-91 in overtime), from a fan's standpoint, to a very, very ugly 'W'," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Really proud of our guys because you have to win these guys, you have to find a way."

Underwood attempted to use analytics to explain the ugliness, but that wasn't needed.

Anyone that watched the game, saw the Illini (15-5 overall, 6-3 in the Big Ten) struggle to score for stretches in the game and they saw the Hoosiers (12-8 overall, 4-5 in the Big Ten) go without a 3-pointer for the first time since Feb. 5, 2010.

"We won because we didn't give them 3s," said Underwood, who admitted limiting 3-pointers was a goal. "We set goals for every game of what we want to do, based on their personnel and how we are scheming it what we want that game to look like. Today, it was three or fewer 3s. It's pretty unrealistic to think a team is going to get zero in a 40-minute college basketball game.

"It's really, really hard to do it. We did it against Michigan State last year. That's what we do. We don't set out to be perfect at it, because we know it's an imperfect game, but we set up goals and ideas and we talk about those things. Those are focal points for our guys to worry about."

But, still, the Illini found themselves trailing the Hoosiers 49-42 with 12 minutes, 43 seconds left in the contest.

Illinois responded with a 9-0 run to take a lead (51-49) that it would never relinquish. Igniting that run was freshman Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn with his only basket of the contest — a 3-pointer from the left wing.

"He's fearless," said Illinois senior Coleman Hawkins. "I'm sure he's been waiting on his moment but that comes with being a freshman. He went out, got his opportunity and hit a big shot for us and gave us a boost."

Underwood notes that Gibbs-Lawhorn, who has only played sparingly in Big Ten Conference play, fills a key role on the Illinois scout team.

"He is the other team's best player most days in practice," Underwood said. "It's very hard to do what Dra has done. He is an extremely positive young may. He is an extremely hard workers. He is in there every day with (coaches) Chester (Frazier) and TA (Tim Anderson) and our coaches, working and getting his shots up.

"A day like today goes a long way for my confidence. He also guarded the ball and he guarded without fouling."

Another key basket during that run for Illinois came from Luke Goode. The junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., drove the baseline for a basket, that could have been a three-point play but Goode missed the free throw.

"It's something that I have tried to integrate into my game is the pump fake and sidestep 3. I've done that a lot this year," Goode said. "Today, I saw the lane to the basket was wide open. I don't usually do it, but I drove the ball and finished."

And Goode had some choice words for assistant coach Tyler Underwood after the play.

"He gets made at me in practice any time I dribble the ball," Goode said.

Head coach Underwood acknowledged it's not a move that he expects to see on a nightly basis from Goode.

"His dribble drive game is not what I would call exception, but it was the right play at the right time," said Underwood. "His rip drive baseline was something that will go on the film at the end of the year."

The Hoosiers was able to tie the game at 62-62 with 1:29 left on a jumper by Mackenzie Mgbako, who finished with 12 points. But on the ensuing possession, Underwood called a timeout and called an isolation play for Terrence Shannon Jr.

The senior was fouled by Xavier Johnson on the play and Shannon made both free throws to give Illinois the lead back.

"I felt really good about the way he finished the game," said Underwood of Shannon, who had two defensive rebounds and four more made free throws in the game's final minute. "He was emotionally in the right place and that's the most important thing. He was tough, he wanted the ball, he went and made free throws. That was good."

Underwood said that Shannon is still trying to work himself back into game shape, noting that the ball was sticking in his hands.

"The flow offensively, we have to find," Underwood said. "We have to have a great dummy day here in the next day or two, where he is not holding the ball.

"Terrence is effective when he is driving, that sets up his 3. We have to help him."

Marcus Domask finished with a double-double on Saturday of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Shannon had 12 points, Hawkins finished with 11 as did Goode.

Malik Reneau was the leading scorer for the Hoosiers with 21 before fouling out with 3:01 remaining. Johnson had 14 and Mgbako chipped in with 12.

Up next for Illinois, which dropped to No. 14 in Monday's AP Poll, is a trip to Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday where the Illini will play the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. but the game will not be available on traditional television outlets. It can only be see on the Peacock Streaming Service, but it can still be heard on the Illini Sports Network, including Danville stations WDAN-AM 1490 and WDNL-FM 102.1