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Big Ten tourney ends early for Indiana

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Hoosiers lose 64-54 to Illinois

Friday, March 14, 2014 - 12:14 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Turnovers again cost Indiana against Illinois.

On Thursday, it remained the lesson that won't get learned. So the Hoosiers will take their 64-54 Big Ten tourney loss and 17-15 record, lowlighted by a three-game losing streak, and hope it's enough for a NIT bid.

That answer will come Sunday night and it is no guarantee.

“We want to keep playing,” coach Tom Crean said. “We hope we keep playing.”

IU won the rebound battle (35-32) and lost the turnover war (10 by the Illini, 16 by the Hoosiers).

Yes, that mattered.

"We can play better," Crean said. "We have to. We have to match the toughness and competitive spirit every time."

Yogi Ferrell led IU with 14 points. Will Sheehey scored 11 points in the first 15 minutes, just two the rest of the way. Troy Williams added 11 points and five rebounds.

Freshman Noah Vonleh, a double-double threat for much of the season, was held to 3-for-9 shooting for six points and five rebounds.

Vonleh, by the way, declined to talk about the possibility of leaving after the season to enter the NBA draft.

The Hoosiers totaled 16 turnovers against 15 assists.

"Our execution wasn't where it needed to be," Crean said.

Illinois (19-13) was led by Tracy Abrams' 25 points. The Illini won two of three meetings from the Hoosiers. IU had 23 turnovers in its overtime loss in Champaign in late December.

"We're stepping up and playig defense," guard Rayvonte Rice said. "We're executing our game plan."

Indiana couldn't have had a worse start. It opened 0-for-8 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws and trailed 9-0.

Three-point shooting saved it. Williams hit just his sixth of the season before Sheehey got hot. He went three-for-three beyond the arc as the Hoosiers surged to a 14-11 lead. They were 6-for-10 on three-pointers in the first half, crucial given they missed multiple layups and totaled just two points in the paint.

Illinois countered with 46.2 percent shooting and forced nine IU turnovers for a 30-28 halftime lead.

The Hoosiers scored the first six points of the second half and built a five-point lead. Freshman Stanford Robinson led the way with six points.

But four turnovers, missed layups and rushed shots kept the Illini in the game. They took advantage to forge a 38-38 tie, then a 42-38 lead and then a 47-40 edge.

The Hoosiers twice pulled within a point, but couldn't regain the lead. Illinois pulled away for a Friday shot against top-seed Michigan (23-7).

IU will wait for the NIT word. That will come Sunday night.

"Every bit of experience this team can get," Crean said, "is very important."