It didn’t need to be difficult. It shouldn’t have been difficult. But Indiana did just enough Friday night to come out with an 87-79 victory over UNC-Greensboro and improve to 5-1.
After leading by 21 points with 17 minutes left, Indiana allowed the Spartans, who fell to 1-5 and still haven’t beaten a Division I opponent this year, to claw back into it. The Hoosiers never squandered the lead. UNCG was in the middle of making an 18-11 to cut the lead down to 7 with 2 minutes to play when Robert Johnson took a charge down low. Indiana never looked back from that point.
The win caps off a 3-game stretch against run-of-the-mill opponents that saw Indiana lose to Eastern Washington on Monday night and struggle to put the clamp down on Lamar and now UNCG.
“We’re dealing with the youth of this,” coach Tom Crean said. “Guys are asked to do a lot. I’m concerned with getting the scouting reports down.”
Crean alluded to the team’s poor defensive play throughout his postgame comments. Indiana has now allowed their opponents to score 98 second-half points over its last two games.
UNCG shot 14-23 from 3-point range to keep them in it. 14 makes is believed to be the most ever from on opposing team at Assembly Hall.
“Tonight, we got caught up in screens. Our awareness of guys wasn’t as good,” offered Crean as the explanation for that downfall.
While allowing UNCG to shoot well, Indiana had offensive success as well. James Blackmon Jr. had a game-high 24 points.
“I just always try to stay aggressive and tonight was a night to take more shots,” said Blackmon Jr. who went 9-17 shooting.
Yogi Ferrell added 15 and Troy Williams, who made his first start of the season, chipped in with 11. For the game, IU shot an even 50 percent from the floor.
However, the mood after the game was not a positive one, despite the win. But that’s the way it should be. UNCG is ranked 288th nationally in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. They were still able to make it close in Bloomington. For reference, Pittsburgh, Indiana’s next opponent comes in at 39.
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge comes up on Tuesday night. After spurring confidence by beating SMU, Indiana has not played well. The question now becomes will this be a team that plays up or down to their opposition. That can plague teams. All you have to do is look at last year’s Big Ten season for IU.
“I hate that term ‘work-in-progress’ but I really don’t have a better one for where we’re at six games in,” said Crean. “The bottom line is we won this game, but we can be a lot better, there’s no question about that.”