Indiana’s trip to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne read as a road game on the schedule. But from all the pre-game chatter detailing the large swath of Hoosier fans in attendance, it was billed as a pro-IU crowd.
It didn’t matter.
The Mastodons came ready to play from the opening tip and knocked Indiana on its heels. They grabbed early offensive rebounds for putbacks. A year ago in Maui, the Hoosiers had serious trouble containing the drive. It reared its ugly head again early tonight, as the Mastodons consistently got into the lane in both the half court and on the break for easy buckets. Indiana’s defense failed in other ways, too. Its communication and effort was poor.
Fort Wayne may not play in the Big Ten. The Mastodons ain’t Kansas and they ain’t ranked No. 3 in the country. But there’s talent on this team. They were the aggressor. It was enough to pull out the victory on a night Indiana look lost for large stretches on both ends of the floor. John Konchar’s athleticism gave Indiana’s defense serious problems. He had 15 points and played an incredible 45 minutes. Former Purdue player Bryson Scott was great in this one, shooting 50 percent from the field (18 points) and adding some key defense against James Blackmon Jr.
It looked like the Hoosiers might have finally figured this one out after a Thomas Bryant and-1 gave the Hoosiers a 43-42 lead with 16:12 to go. But Konchar beat Juwan Morgan off the dribble on the Mastodons next possession and threw it home with authority at the rim.
Indiana never led again.
Because Indiana couldn’t stay in front of anybody, Tom Crean had his players sink back into a 2-3 zone for much of the back half of the second frame and it helped the Hoosiers crawl back into the game. It shut off the drive and Fort Wayne struggled to get much of anything going. The Hoosiers racked up a shot clock violation and forced the Mastodons into a bunch of long, late looks. They only mustered up three points over the final 9:29 of regulation.
Indiana had ample opportunity in regulation to win this game due to the zone, but its offense really sputtered down the stretch when it only needed a bucket to escape with the W. Josh Newkirk and James Blackmon Jr. were both iffy with the ball and with decisions. Thomas Bryant needed more touches and didn’t get them. No one was really grabbing possessions by the neck and making things happen. Drives were thwarted by the Mastodons at the rim or didn’t happen at all. Ball movement felt sluggish and purposeless. Yogi Ferrell was missed tonight and the playmaker-by-committee Hoosiers were exposed, as they only mustered .93 points per possession.
“I’m gonna take full responsibility for that, that we didn’t move the ball the way we needed to,” Tom Crean said after the game. “And I’m gonna get it fixed.”
Other culprits in the loss: OG Anunoby’s illness, an uncharacteristic 7-of-24 mark from distance, an 11-of-19 performance at the free throw line, including some key misses late.
Plenty to be concerned about on both ends of the floor tonight, but this is but one game in a long season. Would you rather Indiana have played an upper 200s KenPom team in Bloomington tonight and won by 20-plus or gotten a wake up call that nothing is promised no matter what a No. 3 ranking would seemingly suggest?
Indiana will study the film, get back to work and prepare for Sunday’s game against Mississippi Valley State with UNC looming on Wednesday.
It’s about all the Hoosiers can do after tonight’s shocking upset.
Video: Fort Wayne players react to win over Indiana
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – John Konchar and Bryson Scott addressed the media following Fort Wayne’s 71-68 overtime win over Indiana on Tuesday night at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Watch their postgame comments below:
At the Buzzer: Fort Wayne 71, Indiana 68
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Quick thoughts on a 71-68 overtime loss to Fort Wayne:
How it happened: Make no mistake about it, Indiana was outplayed on Tuesday night at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The Mastodons were the aggressor from the opening tip and the Hoosiers had no answer until late in the second half. The Hoosiers outscored Fort Wayne 16-4 in the final 9:49 of regulation to force overtime. From there, it was back to the stagnant offense the Hoosiers displayed throughout most of the evening. The Mastodons outscored Indiana 6-3 in the five-minute overtime to pull off the upset in front of a pro-Indiana crowd.
Standout performance: Thomas Bryant had a team-high 18 points for the Hoosiers, but didn’t get nearly enough shots down the stretch. The sophomore big man hit six of his 11 attempts from the field and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Statistic that stands out: After scoring 1.12 points per possession or better in its first three games, Indiana scored just .93 points per possession against Fort Wayne. The Mastodons were giving up 1.04 points per possession, on average, in their first four games.
Final IU player stats:
Final tempo-free stats:
What to Expect: Fort Wayne
Indiana will go on the road for the first time this season as the Hoosiers take on Fort Wayne tonight at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The host Mastodons are 2-2 this season and are coming off of a 94-81 win over UMass Lowell.
The game will be broadcast at 9 p.m. ET on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call:
Indiana’s game tonight against Fort Wayne will go on the ledger as a road game, but it may feel like a home game for the Hoosiers. Indiana will meet Fort Wayne, the preseason pick to win the Summit League, in the sold out Memorial Coliseum, which seats 13,000. Most of them will be donning Cream and Crimson.
As part of a three-game series that included a game in Bloomington last season and another one in 2018-19, the Hoosiers agreed last fall to make the trip to Fort Wayne. Traveling to the state’s second largest city is a good opportunity for the program to play in front of fans who rarely get to see the team play in person. It also serves as an opportunity for James Blackmon Jr., who grew up in Fort Wayne, to play in his hometown.
But now the Hoosiers, who are ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll, must deliver in a critical non-conference game. Indiana only has five games before Big Ten play that will register on the NCAA tournament resume and this is one of them. And regardless of what the game looks like on paper, winning away from home is rarely easy.
MEET THE MASTODONS
The strength of the Mastodons resides in the backcourt with the duo of senior Mo Evans (pictured) and junior Bryson Scott. Evans, a former teammate of Collin Hartman at Cathedral, is coming off of a 33-point game against UMass Lowell and was a preseason second team All-Summit League pick.
The 6-foot-1 Evans is making 57.1 percent of his 3s so far this season after knocking down 42.2 percent as a junior. Evans played in just 16 games last season due to an academic issue that sidelined him for the spring semester.
Scott, a former 247Composite top 100 recruit, played his first two seasons at Purdue before transferring to Fort Wayne. Scott is a pest defensively, but struggles to score with efficiency. In four games, he’s averaging 12.5 points, but is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field.
Kason Harrell, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, came off the bench in the team’s first three games, but started against UMass Lowell. Harrell is fourth on the team in scoring at 11 points per game and is hitting 57.1 percent of his 3s. Senior D’Angelo Stewart, a junior college transfer, made 42.5 percent of his 3s last season but has struggled so far in his senior campaign. In four games, the 6-foot-5 wing is just 5-of-20 from the field.
In the frontcourt, sophomore John Konchar was a preseason All-Summit League first team selection. The Chicago native made 61.6 percent of his 2s and 43.1 percent of his 3s in a terrific freshman campaign. In Summit League games last season, Konchar had the highest effective field goal percentage of any player and was in the top six in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Konchar is excellent at drawing fouls and getting to the line, where he’s making better than 72 percent for his career. Through four games, Konchar is averaging 12.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Brent Calhoun, a 6-foot-9, 260 pound senior, gives the Mastodons legitimate size in the paint. Calhoun is shooting just 41 percent this season, but is an excellent defensive rebounder. Xzavier Taylor, a 6-foot-9 junior, sat out last season after transferring from Bradley. He serves as Calhoun’s backup and is shooting 53 percent from the field.
Racine Talla, a 6-foot-9, 195 junior, is another rotation member, but is inefficient and isn’t a threat to score.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE MATCHUP
Fort Wayne is 2-2 this season, with wins over UMass Lowell and Kenyon College, a Division III program. Their two losses came by nine at Arkansas and by 18 at Illinois State.
Division I programs are shooting 42 percent on 3s against the Mastodons this season, which isn’t a recipe for success against Indiana. Fort Wayne was one of the top ten 3-pointing shooting teams in the country last season, but were in the bottom 20 at defending the 3-point line.
For Indiana, the turnovers are the number one thing to watch. The Hoosiers got away with 26 of them on Saturday night against Liberty, but still won easily against an opponent that was clearly outmatched. As Tom Crean said postgame, the Hoosiers look a little too rushed right now and it’s leading to mistakes. The turnover situation should improve as Indiana gets more games under its belt, but slowing down a bit is the first step in remedying the issue.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The Vegas line opened with Indiana as a 12-point favorite, Ken Pomeroy likes the Hoosiers by 10 (82 percent chance of victory) and Sagarin likes Indiana by 13 when adjusted for home court.
While this game won’t be the true road environment that Indiana will experience in the Big Ten, it should be a competitive one in an unfamiliar venue. Fort Wayne has legitimate talent with Evans, Scott and Konchar and will be amped up for the opportunity to face a top five team.
With just this game and a tune-up against Mississippi Valley State to go before North Carolina comes to Bloomington, Indiana needs to continue making progress on both ends. The Hoosiers are nowhere near their ceiling, but finding success in games like Tuesday’s will go a long way in getting them there come March.
Against Liberty on Saturday night, Indiana built a 26-point halftime lead on the strength of an active, alert defense.
The Flames scored just .47 points per possession in the first half as Indiana shined as a unit forcing lower percentage attempts from the perimeter. Individually against an undersized team, they blocked shots, racked up deflections and stole passes with their length and athleticism.
We’ll take at their defensive prowess in the latest edition of Film Session:
Up just 12 at this point, OG Anunoby comes off his man to help Robert Johnson and pokes the ball loose:
Later in the possession, Anunoby and Johnson sync up again. This time they switch on a left wing ball screen:
Anunoby sticks with John Dawson on the switch and closes off the drive:
Dawson passes to the right wing:
Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz gets into the lane on Curtis Jones as Anunoby lurks:
Anunoby times up the paint attempt perfectly and swats the ball into the stands:
High-level possession from Anunoby here. These types of sequences prove he’s a special defensive talent.
Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Liberty
Indiana moved to 3-0 on Saturday night with an 87-48 blowout victory over Liberty at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. It was the 19th consecutive home win for the Hoosiers.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Flames:
· Solid 3-point shooting continues: It’s a small sample size, but through three games, Indiana’s perimeter shooting hasn’t fallen off from last season.
Six different players have made at least three 3-pointers with junior James Blackmon Jr. leading the way with 14 in three games. The Hoosiers currently sit 20th in the country in 3-point field goal percentage at 44.3.
Saturday was another solid performance from distance as Indiana hit 9-of-21 of its 3-point attempts. Five different Hoosiers made a 3 against Liberty.
“When you go eight deep, at least eight deep, and you can score on the interior like they can with (Thomas) Bryant, OG (Anunoby) and (Juwan) Morgan is a really tough matchup, and then they stretch you,” Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said. “All those guys can shoot, and (Josh) Newkirk’s ability to bounce gives them a whole new dynamic.”
· Johnson’s hot start: Robert Johnson is showing little rust from the time he missed in the offseason following ankle surgery. The junior guard from Richmond (Va.) has the highest offensive rating of any player on the roster through three games, according to Ken Pomeroy’s stats.
Johnson was strong again on Saturday night against Liberty as he finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes. In three games, Johnson is 11-of-13 on 2s and is making 36.4 percent of his 3s.
Perhaps more importantly, though, his turnover percentage sits at just 14.9, which is the lowest on the roster. If that trend continues, bringing Newkirk off the bench and going big in the frontcourt with Morgan, Anunoby and Bryant could become a regular occurrence.
· Indiana locks up defensively: In previous seasons, Indiana probably wouldn’t have won a game in which it committed 26 turnovers that decisively.
The Hoosiers have allowed plenty of below average offensive teams come into Bloomington and put up points, but that wasn’t the case with Liberty. The Flames did miss some open looks, but the Hoosiers allowed just .62 points per possession.
Postgame, McKay, who was the associate head coach at Virginia for several years before returning to Liberty prior to last season, had high praise for the Hoosiers.
“Indiana is really impressive,” he said. “I just said to the radio guys, ‘I sat on an ACC bench for the last six years prior to last season, and saw a lot of quality teams. That is as good of a team as I have seen in years. They have got everything – they’ve got size, depth, athleticism, strength, skill and unselfishness. That is a terrific team.”
· Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: As we mentioned in the third takeaway, Indiana committed 26 turnovers on Saturday night for a turnover percentage of 33.7.
It’s early, but Indiana is currently 328th in the country in terms of taking care of the ball. Tom Crean said postgame that his team is a little too rushed right now offensively.
“We work on footwork all the time,” Crean said. “We’re hopping a little bit. And I think we’re just in a rush. I think we’re playing a little too fast at times. And we’re trying to make the move too fast.”
· Anunoby’s first double-double: Sophomore OG Anunoby had his first career double-double on Saturday night and nearly got it in the first half. Anunoby finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds and had seven points and nine rebounds before halftime.
In his second season, Anunoby seems to be much more aggressive on the defensive glass than he was as a freshman. His defensive rebounding percentage was below average last season at 11.7 percent, which was well below Thomas Bryant, Max Bielfeldt, Juwan Morgan and Troy Williams.
Through three games, he’s up a little more than five percent there, a trend that Indiana will need to continue as the competition level increases.
Notebook: Hoosiers breeze past Liberty
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.”
After a ho hum 100-78 win over UMass Lowell on Wednesday, it was worth watching how Indiana would come out on Saturday night against Liberty.
The Hoosiers started with a different lineup than we saw in the first two regular season games, swapping Juwan Morgan in for Josh Newkirk. Tom Crean said postgame that he’s comfortable swapping Morgan in for anyone, as he currently views his team as having six starters.
Indiana raced out to a 9-2 lead, but the start wasn’t great aesthetically. Turnovers, which would be a theme all game, reared their ugly head in the early minutes. By the first TV timeout, the Hoosiers had already accumulated five. The energy in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall stalled with all of the mishaps.
But it wouldn’t matter as Indiana locked up Liberty defensively from the onset. By halftime, the Flames were shooting just 21.2 percent for .47 points per possession and Indiana led 45-19. That was despite a first half in which the Hoosiers committed 17 turnovers for a 42.2 turnover percentage.
When Indiana wasn’t turning it over in the first half, the Hoosiers were making shots. They hit 16 of their 25 shots in the opening 20 minutes for an effective field goal percentage of 76. Not many teams can turn it over on over 40 percent of their possessions and still lead by more than 20 at the half, but Indiana is one of them.
OG Anunoby closed in on a double-double before halftime and eventually notched the first one in his career in the second half. James Blackmon Jr. poured in 11 of his 20 in the first half, marking the third straight game the junior has scored 20 or more. He’s only the third Hoosier to do so in the last 10 years, joining Eric Gordon and Yogi Ferrell. And junior Robert Johnson came out hot offensively, hitting four of his five shot attempts before intermission for 10 points.
The second half wasn’t much different as Indiana continued to lock down the Flames defensively and continued to shoot it well from the floor. The lead grew all the way to 39 by the 6:44 mark of the second half. Liberty would finish with just .62 points per possession, which is a lower mark than any team scored against Indiana all of last season. Indiana’s defense still has plenty of room to grow, but on this night, Liberty had no answer.
The turnovers improved after half as the Hoosiers committed just nine in the second half, but the final turnover percentage (33.9) is simply too high of a number. Postgame, Crean mentioned Indiana was “hopping” and “playing too fast” on several of the mishaps.
Two games are in the books for Indiana in the Indiana Classic, this year’s exempt tournament for the Hoosiers. The next figures to be the toughest. On Tuesday, Indiana will travel to Memorial Coliseum for a meeting with Fort Wayne. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Blackmon Jr. and IU’s lone road game in the non-conference. When the polls come out Monday, Indiana is likely to be in the top five in both of them with the losses that took place in front of them this week. Through three games, it’s hard to imagine this season starting any better than it has.
Video: Tom Crean reacts to win over Liberty
Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 87-48 win over Liberty on Saturday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.