Just four days after taking VCU down to the wire in a 64-59 defeat, Liberty University was expected to test the Hoosiers, or at the very least, provide a better challenge than UMass Lowell did Wednesday.
Instead, the inferior Flames were outplayed from the opening tip. Indiana scored the first nine points of the game, and it only got worse for Liberty. At the end of the first half, the Hoosier lead was 26.
The statistics from the first 20 minutes were eye-popping. The Hoosiers out-rebounded the Flames 32-7 while managing to shoot 64 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three.
The second half wasn’t much of a contest, either, with Indiana winning by a final of 87-48 and improving to 3-0 on the season.
“That’s as good a team as I’ve seen in years live,” said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay, who spent six seasons as an assistant at Virginia for Tony Bennett before becoming the Liberty head coach prior to the 2015-16 season. “They’ve got everything. They’ve got size, they’ve got depth, they’ve got athleticism, strength, skill, unselfishness. That’s a terrific team.”
It was far from a perfect performance from Indiana, however.
Indiana was sloppy throughout, committing 26 turnovers, with 17 of them coming in the first half. Tom Crean attributed many of the giveaways to poor footwork.
“We’re hopping a little bit,” Crean said. “I think we’re just in a rush. I think we’re playing a little too fast at times.”
At times, the game was downright unwatchable. 48 personal fouls were handed out in all, and both teams were in the bonus for the final 15 minutes of the contest.
“The game seemed like it lasted for four days,” McKay said.
Three different players scored at least 10 points for Indiana, but sophomore OG Anunoby was the only one to post a double-double. Anunoby finished the contest with 10 points on 4-6 from the field to go along with a career-high 11 rebounds, an assist, and two blocks.
“It feels good,” Anunoby said of his first career double-double.
Newkirk has rough night
Junior guard Josh Newkirk had a night he’d probably rather forget.
Newkirk was replaced by Juwan Morgan in the starting lineup Saturday after starting the previous two games, but that was far from the worst for the Pittsburgh transfer.
In 12 minutes on the floor, Newkirk scored just three points, committed three turnovers and was charged with four fouls, the last of which being a technical.
Making matters worse, Newkirk took a shot to the face on the play, losing a tooth in the process.
“I was really looking forward to him going out there, continuing to play with the four fouls,” Crean said. “Then he obviously took the hit and couldn’t continue. But I have no reason to believe that it will be anything more than getting that replaced, and hopefully, with the addition of a mouth guard, he’ll be okay.”
Blackmon looking forward to Tuesday
James Blackmon Jr. led all scorers with 20 points while grabbing a career-high tying nine rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Blackmon joins Eric Gordon and Yogi Ferrell as the only Hoosiers to record at least 20 points in each of the season’s first three games over the last decade.
The junior, who grew up in Fort Wayne, from Marion, Indiana is looking forward to Tuesday, when the Hoosiers play at Memorial Coliseum.
Blackmon played in several tournaments at Memorial Coliseum throughout his high school career and considers Fort Wayne guard Bryson Scott his ‘best friend.’
“It’s really cool to me,” Blackmon said. “I’ve been talking to the guys. We know they’re going to be pumped up there. There’s going to be a lot of fans there and it’s going to be a big game.”