The Indiana Hoosiers opened up their season with an exhibition matchup against the Ottawa Gee-Gees Tuesday night at Assembly Hall and while it may have been sloppy at times, there were definitely some good things to take away from their 82-54 win.
In the first half, Indiana got out to a decent sized lead, but couldn’t extend it much due to the amount of turnovers they had. That was the main storyline of the first half for IU, but star freshman Thomas Bryant also impressed in the early going.
Bryant finished with a double-double in his first game as a Hoosier. He started off with six of the Hoosiers first 11 points and finished with 12 points and 11 boards. Ottawa had a tough time matching up with the size of Bryant and he turned in a solid performance in his Indiana debut.
“Thomas always plays with energy and heart and showed why he is so highly regarded,” senior Max Bielfeldt said following the game. Bielfeldt mentioned rebounds and second chance points in Bryant’s performance against Ottawa as well.
Ottawa, however, did a great job staying around in this game. They had trouble shooting the ball, shooting just 19% from behind the arc, but trailed just 40-32 at the half.
Ottawa is a team IU played last year over the summer, and are currently ranked number one overall in Canada. Last season, Indiana went up to Canada and they were beat by the Gee-Gees 109-101.
“We all talked about that,” James Blackmon Jr. said. “We knew how much it meant to us all. When they made that run at the end, we wanted to shut them down.”
This exhibition schedule is a little bit unordinary as it will test the Hoosiers, but Tom Crean thinks playing against an outstanding team like Ottawa will pay dividends.
“I’m really glad we chose to play them,” coach Tom Crean said. “They are extremely well coached team.”
Ottawa already has nine games under their belt this season, but it was a sloppy first half as turnovers were prominent. Indiana finished with 13 first half turnovers in a sloppy opening half, but cleaned it up in the second half.
“[Turnovers] were a main point as well [going into the second half],” Blackmon Jr. said. “[Crean] talked about that and we talked to each other and we said ‘lets fix it’ and we made it happen after that.”
Once the second half got going, Indiana cleaned it up and started playing their kind of game. Coach Tom Crean mentioned being more conscious of the turnovers in the second half and that might have flipped the switch, which may have turned into defense because that was also a key point going into the second half.
“The key was our defense,” Blackmon Jr. said. “We had a few lapses, but we went out and did it.”
The Gee-Gees had trouble shooting from distance all night, which is usually their forte. They ended the game 2-for-16 from three-point range and shot just 31% from the field overall. Caleb Agada was the Gee-Gees only guy who got it going from the field, finishing as the game’s leading scorer with 17 points.
The closest it got in the second half was six points, but it didn’t seem like Indiana started to assert their dominance until about 10 minutes to go in the ballgame. From 9:13 until the end of the game, Indiana went on a 25-3 run, while Ottawa couldn’t buy a bucket.
Indiana’s defense also tightened up on their big run, stopping Ottawa on 13 of their last 14 possessions.
In the end, the Hoosiers played good basketball and got contributions from a lot of different guys. Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant chipped in 12 points, while James Blackmon Jr. was Indiana’s leading scorer with 15 points, while going 4-for-6 from 3-point land. Max Bielfeldt was solid in his first game in an Indiana uniform with eight points and as many boards.
Crean’s starting lineup in this one included Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant, Max Bielfeldt, and Troy Williams. Last week Crean said he wasn’t “married” to a three-guard lineup and with this lineup, he showed a bit of a bigger starting five.
“We don’t have a starting lineup,” said Crean. “We’ll do different things. If this is the starting lineup next week, it will be a shock to me.”
The starting five will be an interesting thing to keep your eye on, as it could change from game to game. Crean didn’t give a whole lot of answers about how it will change, but it sounds like there could be some tinkering done to the lineup.
The Hoosiers took care of business Tuesday night at home with a good 82-54 win and will finish up their exhibition slate with Bellarmine on Monday night before welcoming in Eastern Illinois to Assembly Hall on Friday to begin their regular season.