Quick hit: Hoosiers ride strong defense

The Hoosiers came out playing rugged defense, forcing Illinois into myriad bad shots in limiting the Illini to 21 first-half points and 25.9 percent shooting and forcing eight turnovers. And that theme continued in the second half in a game that never really was that close, as Illinois shot just 34 percent and had 12 turnovers. Brandon Paul had 16 points but hit just 2-of-13 shots.

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Key moment: Victor Oladipo took a pass from Jordan Hulls off an Illinois turnover and proceeded to spin off a 360-degree slam that raised the roof on the United Center. Spectacular. That put Indiana up 78-60 with less than two minutes to go and served as a premature exclamation point on the Hoosiers’ victory. I doubt there will be a better dunk in Chicago during this event.

Key player: Cody Zeller was a dominant force in the paint, time and again getting to the rim for easy baskets in helping Indiana shoot 54 percent to overcome 13 turnovers. The Illini had no answer for the sophomore sensation, who finished with 24 points and nine rebounds for an IU team that had five players in double figures. It was a far cry from the first meeting between these teams, when Zeller had 14 points and nine rebounds in a 74-72 loss at Illinois.

Key number: 33, number of rebounds for Indiana. The Hoosiers dominated the glass all game, playing an aggressive brand of basketball and displaying great hustle. Zeller (nine boards), Christian Watford (six) and Victor Oladipo (team-high 11) all rebounded with aplomb. Illinois? It had just 20 rebounds.

What’s next: The Hoosiers will play the winner of the Wisconsin-Michigan game on Saturday for a shot to play for the tourney title. Indiana lost at home this year to the Badgers, but it swept two games from the Wolverines.

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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