Ex-recruit burns Illinois again in rally
Monday, January 14, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Eric Gordon's play finally matched his excitement.
The high-scoring freshman, who reneged on an oral commitment with Illinois and signed instead with Indiana, had 11 of his 17 points in the second half and the No. 10 Hoosiers rallied from a late seven-point deficit to beat the Illini 62-58 on Sunday.
"I was pretty excited. I knew this was going to be a big game for us," Gordon said. "We tried to look at it like just another Big Ten game and to just get a win. We just needed to relax and deal with all the pressure they put on us."
It was Indiana's 10th straight victory.
Big Ten rebounding leader D.J. White, coming off 21 points and a career-high 22 rebounds in a win at Michigan on Tuesday, added 15 points and 10 boards, and Armon Bassett had all 11 of his points in the second half for the Hoosiers (14-1, 3-0).
Shaun Pruitt led Illinois (8-9, 0-4) with 14 points and Brian Randle added nine points and 10 rebounds but missed a potential tying basket in the closing seconds.
Randle said getting back at Gordon for his late change in college plans was never a motivation for the Illini.
"We didn't say anything about it," Randle said. "He was another player on the scouting report. Obviously, he's one of the best freshmen in the country. But in terms of what everybody wants to hear, about we're angry or it's a payback game, it's just a game. It's Indiana versus Illinois."
Gordon, who was the state's high school Mr. Basketball at Indianapolis North Central last year, entered the week as the Big Ten scoring leader and second in the nation among freshmen at 23.5 points a game.
The Illini led 44-37 before two free throws by Gordon started a 12-2 run that put the Hoosiers in front for good.
Illinois came within 60-58 with just over a minute to go on a 3-pointer by Trent Meacham. The Illini got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Randle missed a shot and Bassett hit two clinching free throws with 2.5 seconds to go.
"The sign of a pretty good team is finding ways to win when maybe you're not on top of your game," Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I don't think we played as well as we're capable of playing. But Illinois had a lot to do with that. They came in and really took it to us for a while.
"In the first half, we didn't look like the way we've looked. I don't know what the problem was," Sampson said.
Gordon was only 4-of-10 from the field but hit 8-of-10 free throws for the game.
He missed his first three shots, and Illinois took a 13-4 lead before two baskets by Jordan Crawford started an 11-0 run by the Hoosiers.
Gordon had two free throws during that streak, then after the Illini went back in front, Gordon's only first-half field goal tied the game at 17. There were four more lead changes and another tie at 25 on two more free throws by Gordon before a basket by freshman center Mike Tisdale put Illinois ahead again.
A 3-pointer with 12 seconds left by Demetri McCamey, his second of the game, gave Illinois a 34-30 lead at halftime.
"Being close on a Big Ten road trip, you have to find a way to grind it out," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We spread people out, we were screening, cutting using the clock. There were some good things.
"I asked them to fight and play hard, and we did that for the most part. ... It doesn't do us any good. We're 0-4 (in the conference)."