BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Illinois played like a desperate team Thursday night.
That didn't matter to Indiana.
Cody Zeller scored 22 points and Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford each had 18, igniting No. 23 Indiana's late charge to get past the Fighting Illini 84-71.
It was the third win in four games for the Hoosiers (19-6, 7-6 Big Ten) and a critical one with four of their next six games at home.
For the Illini (16-8, 5-6), it was a devastating blow.
D.J. Richardson scored 19 points, Meyers Leonard had 17 and Brandon Paul finished with 13, not nearly enough to prevent Illinois from losing for the fifth time in six games. Illinois has lost five straight in Bloomington when the Hoosiers are ranked and failed to take its first lead in the series since 1975.
But they sure didn't make it easy on the Hoosiers, who were looking to avenge last season's 24-point loss in Champaign.
The teams spent nearly 19 minutes trading baskets and possessions with neither able to a lead bigger than four points.
Indiana finally ended the tug-of-war with a quick scoring flurry early in the second half.
Jordan Hulls' 3-pointer broke a 46-46 tie. Zeller then drew a foul on a dunk and made the free throw to give Indiana a 52-46 lead. After grabbing a loose ball, Zeller drove in for a layup to make it 54-46 with 15:29 left.
Illinois came right back.
Paul and Richardson knocked down 3s on consecutive possessions. Paul followed that with a layup, then hit 1 of 2 free throws on the next possession to get the Illini within 57-55 with 10:58 left.
But Zeller and Oladipo combined to make 5 of 6 free throws to start the decisive 15-6 run that gave Indiana a 77-65 lead with 4:49 to go. Illinois didn't get closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Indiana took a 13-6 lead less than 5 minutes into the game, then watched the Illini run off 10 straight points. Neither team led by more than three points until Zeller made two free throws to break a 34-34 tie and Oladipo followed with a driving layup to make it 38-34 with 1:30 left in the half.
Starting guard Verdell Jones sat out for Indiana because of a bruised right shoulder.