BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Jordan Hulls kept his bloodstained uniform on long after Thursday night's game ended.
It was all part of the Hoosiers' tougher image.
The sophomore guard scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and Tom Pritchard's tip-in with 44.2 seconds left led the Hoosiers past No. 20 Illinois 52-49, setting off one of Bloomington's wildest postgame parties in years.
``These guys really, really earned it,' Indiana coach Tom Crean said. ``They put forth a tremendous effort and energy, and like my brother-in-law (Baltimore Ravens coach) John Harbaugh said in a text tonight, 'Your team came of age.''
The game was every bit as tough as it seemed.
Hulls, who was sick Sunday at Iowa, started the game with a wrap on his right knee and finished it with a bandage on his right temple, tape around his right forearm and blood on his shorts.
Pritchard, who drew four fouls in the first 9 minutes of the second half, came up with the game's biggest play when he got his fingertips on a missed shot and redirected it in for the go-ahead basket, just his second all night.
Indiana's Christian Watford, who had 16 points, had blood on his jersey.
But none of that mattered to Hulls, who scored more than half of Indiana's 22 second-half points while three of the Hoosiers' projected opening-day starters - guards Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones and center Guy-Marc Michel sat on the bench in street clothes. Creek and Jones were out with knee injuries. Michel was declared ineligible by the NCAA in December.
So Hulls didn't have time to even feel the pain.
``I was just trying to play through it,' he said. ``This was a case of me getting beat up a little bit, but I'm playing the game I love.'
Hoosiers fans liked what they saw.
After ending a 19-game losing streak against Top 25 teams, Crean traded high-fives with fans who stormed the court. Students jumped up and down at midcourt as Hulls tried to finish a television interview, and some of the Hoosiers got in on the act, too, before heading to the safety of their locker room where the celebration continued.
And why not?
The last time Indiana (11-10, 2-6 Big Ten) had beaten a ranked foe: Feb. 19, 2008 against Purdue.
Mike Davis led the Fighting Illini (14-7, 4-4) with 14 points, but nobody else reached double figures. Demetri McCamey finished with six points, his second straight game with fewer than 10, and Illinois' vaunted 3-point shooters were a dismal 5 of 20.
Illinois has lost four of its last five.
``We had some opportunities down the stretch and we just couldn't get baskets down,' coach Bruce Weber said. ``So credit to them, they played their hearts out.'
Especially when it looked like another game might again slip away from the Hoosiers.
Hulls refused to let it happen.
He ended a 10-minute stretch in which the Hoosiers managed only one basket by driving in for consecutive layups midway through the second half. His 3-pointer with 7:36 to go gave Indiana a 41-39 lead - its first of the second half.
Hulls' next 3 with 5:01 left, extended the Hoosiers' lead to 46-42, and then Hulls rallied his teammates on the defensive end.
When Illinois answered with seven straight points to take a 49-46 lead on Brandon Paul's 3 with 2:43 to go, the Hoosiers buckled down. The Illini didn't score the rest of the game.
``I thought when Brandon hit the 3, at least you got the lead, now you get a couple stops,' Weber said.
That didn't happen, either.
Hulls fed the ball into the post where Watford drew a foul and made two free throws. Then after Watford missed a shot in the paint, Pritchard got through traffic to get his hands on the loose ball and into the basket.
``I knew it was good as soon as I let it go,' Pritchard said.
Illinois threw the ball away on its ensuing possession, and Hulls delivered again with two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Twice the Illini had chances to force overtime, but they missed both shots and the party was on.
``There were a few years back where people were used to these kinds of wins,' Crean said. ``And we'll get it back, but to get it tonight and get it this way is really important. I'm just so proud of these guys.'
The Associated Press News Service
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