Indiana University opened up the B1G/ACC challenge at home against Pittsburgh on national television (ESPN2). Indiana comes back from break after picking up their first loss to Eastern Washington, then coming back strong against UNC Greensboro on Friday night. Pittsburgh came into the game ranked 2nd overall in offensive rebounding while IU had the 8th overall scoring offense, putting up an average of 88.5 points per game. James Blackmon Jr, who leads all freshmen in scoring, has improved the Hoosiers guard play immensely.
The Hoosiers opened up the scoring 4-7 before Pitt called a timeout. After a couple missed chances on both ends, freshman James Blackmon Jr got a little heated at a call and was subbed off for a quick breather. While he was off the floor Pitt tied the ball game up and then took a 13-11 lead. The teams traded blows until the Hoosiers took their 20-22 lead and went on an 8-0 run. Freshman Max Hoetzel contributed with a three and sophomore Troy Williams scored in the paint. Williams pace was too much for Pitt to handle as he scored 8 points and recorded 4 rebounds in the first half. Sophomore Collin Hartman also contributed with a three pointer to extend the Hoosiers lead. Pitt didn’t roll over though; they used their physicality to dominate the boards, outrebounding the Hoosiers 22-15 in the first half. Pitt relied on the dribble drive and kick-outs to put together a run to try and stay in the game. 6’7” freshman Emmitt Holt was a great surprise off the bench, scoring 11 points and pulling down 3 rebounds as the Hoosiers closed out the half 45-37. The Indiana bench had 22 points while the starters had 23. Pitt sophomore Chris Jones led all scoring with 16.
The second half started just like the first ended, blows were traded until Indiana found some footing and took off. Early on they had an 8-15 run that increased their lead to 14. The Hoosiers matched physicality and made more hustle plays in the second half. Hartman had a couple rebounds in the thick of things, and Crean was happy with giving up fouls when the boys in red went for the boards. Holt scored 4 more points and collected 2 more rebounds and Williams added just another bucket. Junior Yogi Ferrell and Blackmon Jr, after struggling in the first half, took over their respective roles as leading scorers in the and distanced themselves from Pitt. After trailing by 22 Pitt went back to the dribble drive and kick-out for the three. They inched their way back into the game but it was too little too late. They cut the lead to 10 with 1:20 to go but had to start fouling to try and slow down the game. Indiana was able to pull out the victory 69-81.
What an impressive showing for the Hoosiers. They faced a difficult and physical opponent and made adjustments to keep Pitt out of the game. Some interesting things to point out for the Hoosiers:
- Their bench was a huge factor when the starters were struggling to score, they scored 33 points
- They turned the physicality and hustle on in the 2nd half when they needed to
- Indiana outscored Pitt 48-24 in the paint.
It was a fun game to watch as the Hoosiers handled their business. I don’t really have any real criticism after this showing. Tom Crean said after the game “We are trying to build a team with consistent depth.” If this bench can perform this well game after game Indiana will be a force this season. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple weeks, as Indiana’s schedule gets progressively harder. They play Savannah State and then play #5 Louisville in a neutral stadium. Louisville boasts a top 10 defense and they are the number one rebounding team in the nation. If the Hoosiers can find their physicality and build some momentum against Savannah State, the Louisville game can be that cornerstone game that sets the tenor for the rest of the season.