Champaign, IL (TSN) – An inbounds play to remember ended with Tyler Griffey putting in an uncontested layup just before the buzzer, as Illinois stole a thrilling 74-72 victory over No. 1 Indiana in an instant classic at Assembly Hall.
The Fighting Illini, who came in 2-20 all-time against No. 1 programs, trailed by double-digits with under 4 1/2 minutes remaining, but D.J. Richardson scored eight consecutive points during an 11-1 run to tie things coming down the stretch.
Richardson came away with a steal of Victor Oladipo with time winding down, though Oladipo came from behind and blocked Richardson’s potential go-ahead layup out of bounds as the clock ticked to 0.9 seconds.
Illinois set up three players along the right wing perimeter with Brandon Paul inbounding in the corner. A scrum left Hoosiers All-American candidate Cody Zeller with his back turned to Griffey, who ran down the lane untouched and laid in Paul’s bounce pass with ease as the buzzer sounded, signaling the orange-clad crowd to rush the court.
“It was one of our standard inbounds plays,” Griffey said. “I just made a simple curl cut, left two guys behind me, Brandon made a heck of a pass and I got it off just before the buzzer.”
The Illini (16-8, 3-7 Big Ten) got the signature win they were looking for after losing six of their previous seven, including four in a row at home. Richardson finished with 23 points, Paul had 21 and Griffey added 14 with eight rebounds in the school’s first win over a top-ranked team since beating Wake Forest on Dec. 1, 2004.
“It was a great win for our program,” Illinois head coach John Groce said. “We feel very fortunate to have beaten a really good Indiana basketball team.”
Zeller led Indiana (20-3, 8-2) with 14 points, while Will Sheehey netted 13 in the loss. The Hoosiers were coming off a win over then-No. 1 Michigan last Saturday and became the fifth straight team to suffer a loss the week it became No. 1.
The largest lead either way in the first 12 minutes was four before Indiana scored on eight consecutive possessions to build a healthy cushion. Jordan Hulls hit from behind the arc twice during the five-minute stretch, which was capped by an Oladipo 3-pointer for a 35-23 advantage.
The Hoosiers went into the break holding a 41-29 lead and answered a brief run by the hosts early after the intermission. Richardson’s steal and bucket pulled the Illini within 45-39, causing Indiana to call a timeout a little more than four minutes into the half.
Hulls drained one from long range immediately following the timeout to start a 10-2 flurry that ended with Zeller finding Sheehey on a backdoor cut for a two-handed slam and a 55-41 edge.
Illinois chipped away with a 10-3 spurt, cutting the deficit to 65-59 on a Paul 3-pointer with 5:49 remaining.
A Zeller dunk and two Christian Watford free throws made it a double-digit game again, but after exchanging free throws, Richardson hit 3-pointers from both corners and nailed a deep step-back jumper to knot things at 70-70 with 1:19 on the clock.
Oladipo drove the left lane for a layup on the ensuing possession, but Paul’s two free throws with 37.2 seconds left set up the final sequence.
Illinois has beaten three top-10 teams this season … The Illini scored 28 points off 14 turnovers … Indiana has lost 10 of its last 11 in Champaign … This is the only time these rivals play in the regular season, and the all-time series is tied, 84-84 … Zeller was one rebound away from his eighth double-double of the season … Watford and Hulls donated 12 and 11 points, respectively, for Indiana, which lost despite shooting 50 percent from the field and 13-of-14 from the foul line … Both teams made nine 3-pointers.