In spite of the setback, Indiana coach Tom Crean saw some things that he liked.
“I’m proud of my team because I think we did a great job the last couple days of establishing even more togetherness and it showed,” he said after the loss.
Ferrell, a sophomore, scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half on Tuesday and the guard comes into today’s game averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game. One difference this time around with Indiana freshman center Noah Vonleh. He came into the conference season with just a single 3-pointer made, but in league play, Vonleh is 9-of-12 behind the arc, including a pair in the first matchup with Illinois.
Illinois junior Nnanna Egwu, who had 10 points and nine rebounds in the loss at Ohio State, will draw that assignment.
“I thought he did a great job defensively the first time,’’ said Groce as Vonleh had 16 points, 10 of those coming at the free-throw line. “His two field goals were both 3s so that will make him even tougher to cover this time around.’’
And while Egwu snapped his two-game scoreless streak at Ohio State, Groce said that isn’t as important as his defense and rebounding.
“He has double-figure scoring game in his career, but his impact is not being a prolific scorer,’’ Groce said. “He needs to defend and rebound. He had nine rebounds in 33 minutes and he made an impact on the defensive glass.’’
But when it comes to scoring, Illinois needs to get Rice, the team’s leading scorer, back on track.
The Champaign native and transfer from Drake has scored in double figures in all but two games this season for the Illini.
“Ray needs to be more aggressive,’’ Groce said. “There were times on Thursday when he forced and there were time where I wish he could have shot it or make a play, but he didn’t.