Winning on the road is never easy. It’s made even tougher when the only player on your roster that’s experienced a conference road win is a walk-on named Brett Finkelmeier.
But in what will be looked at down the road as a valuable learning experience for this rebuilding Indiana program, the Hoosiers went to Penn State Thursday night and left with a 67-61 victory. Even more impressive was this: Indiana never trailed en route to victory.
“They’re gaining conference,” Indiana coach Tom Crean told Don Fischer on the postgame radio show. “If you don’t have a win like Minnesota, the way that we won it, maybe they don’t feel like they can win this one. We held on. We got big stops. We attacked in press offense.”
The Hoosiers (9-9, 3-3 Big Ten) hit 9-of-20 from behind the 3-point arc, 10-of-14 free throws and committed just 12 turnovers to 15 assists. Devan Dumes, IU’s leading scorer last season, had a season-high 15 points.
“He really, really stepped up,” Crean said of Dumes. “I’m really proud of the way that he played. He made some big plays in 26 minutes of basketball. He answered the challenge of Talor Battle when Jeremiah (Rivers) had some foul trouble.”
After Indiana led 35-28 at halftime, Penn State (8-10, 0-6) opened the second half with a 12-5 run to tie the game at 40 with 13:44 remaining.
But unlike previous road games at Ohio State and Michigan where the Hoosiers had lengthy scoring droughts, Thursday was different: Indiana immediately answered with six straight points.
Penn State, which shot just 37 percent and got little offense besides 22 points from Battle, never got closer than three the rest of the way.
“Again tonight just like Minnesota, we went and earned the game,” Crean said. “We never lost the lead and that’s the key. We never had to play comeback on it. They bought into the fact that it’s not about running good offense, it’s about executing good offense.”
Verdell Jones had another game in double figures with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists and Christian Watford added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Ann Arbor, Mich. — To be fair to Indiana, the final score was not reflective of the closeness of the game through the first 35 minutes. To be fair to Michigan, it still wasn’t that far off after the last five.
On this night, it was the familiar blend of turnovers, poor shot selection and an overall lack of offensive rhythm that doomed Indiana in a 69-45 loss. The Hoosiers were just 1-of-15 from behind the arc, shot 36.5 percent from the floor for the game and committed 19 turnovers, leading to 21 Michigan points.
“We got a lot of good looks, but they just wouldn’t fall,” Verdell Jones said afterward, referring in particular to the 3-point shooting.
Indiana fans can take heart in the Hoosiers’ defensive effort, which the final score probably doesn’t do justice. The visitors forced 16 turnovers and never let Michigan find its 3-point shot, one of the Wolverines’ preferred scoring methods. And it wasn’t until late in the second half that Michigan truly pulled away — cued, unsurprisingly, by Manny Harris’ 17 second-half points, most of which came in the final minutes.
“Credit Indiana, they did a wonderful job,” Michigan coach John Beilein said after the game. “I was really impressed with how they played defense today.”
Well, we promised you we’d get you more information on this Gregory Echenique fellow, and so we have. OK, more Adam Zagoria than us, but still.
Echenique, who listed Indiana as one of five possible destinations after announcing his intent to transfer from Rutgers, is headed to Creighton, says Zagoria. Indiana joins Georgia Tech, Maryland and Miami as one of the spurned.
In truth, the chances that Echenique ever ended up at IU are tough to figure.
The player expressed his interest, obviously, but it’s hard to tell whether he would have fit coach Tom Crean’s up-tempo style. There was also some Twitter chatter (Chitter? Yea, probably not.) recently suggesting Creighton was a favored choice, something Zagoria elaborates upon in the above-linked story.
Either way, Echenique can apparently be crossed off the wish list.