BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WCIA) — Illinois paced Indiana (19-8, 10-6) from the halfway point in the first half at Assembly Hall before a late charge at the end by the Hoosiers gave Mike Woodson’s squad a 71-68 win.
It came down to the final shot, as R.J. Melendez could not sink a three-pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime. The sophomore guard ended 0-for-6 from the field to end the game.
“I said exactly on the bench, ‘overtime’ as soon as he let it go,” Brad Underwood said after the game. “I knew he was going to make that one. I got all the confidence in the world in RJ. I’m the biggest RJ Melendez believer of all time.”
The Illini (17-9, 8-7) were without Terrence Shannon Jr., who did not make the trip after suffering a concussion against Penn State. Without their leading scorer Illinois was led by Matthew Mayer with 24 points, hitting four three-pointers.
“Losing a scorer like that, one of the best shooting guards in the country is going to be tough but we knew that going ahead so we game planned for it,” Luke Goode said.
“I thought we did a good job. Terrence is an amazing player, he does such a good job in transition. He does such a good job in so many aspects of the game so we were definitely missing him today,” Mayer said.
Illinois led for a total of 26 minutes before Indiana took the lead back for the first time since the first half with 30 seconds left. Jayden Epps had the chance to tie the game at the free throw line late, but left one shot short. Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis had a wide open dunk in the ensuing sequence to make it a three point game before Melendez’s final shot.
“I don’t know if proud’s the right word? Excited. Elated,” Underwood said. “But I’m a much bigger believer in our team right now than I have been at any point in this season.”
Next up, the Illini have a quick turnaround before hosting Minnesota on Monday. The rematch with the Golden Gophers is a rescheduling of the game meant for Feb. 7. Tipoff at the State Farm Center is set for 8 p.m.