Indiana entered Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night a decided underdog against Pittsburgh.
They left with a surprising and convincing 74-64 victory, the most impressive win to date of the Tom Crean era. It was the 200th career victory for the second year coach.
The Hoosiers (4-4) controlled the paint and the pace and led by as many as 18 before fighting off a late Pitt rally in the Jimmy V Classic.
“From the nine minute mark on, they never, ever wavered when it came to how they were talking to each other in the sense of finishing,” Crean said. “It was all about defense. I could have not talked offense those last nine minutes and I think they still would have been fine because they were so locked in to defending.”
Indiana held Pitt to just 31 percent shooting and outscored the Panthers 40-20 in the paint.
Verdell Jones scored 20 points to lead IU and Christian Watford added 18 points, including 10 of 13 from the foul line. Indiana hit 25 of 34 free throws.
The Hoosiers began to pull away near the midway point of the second half. After Pitt cut the lead to 41-37 on a Brad Wanamaker layup, Indiana answered with seven straight points over a four-minute stretch.
The run was capped by a Devan Dumes three-pointer, which gave IU its first double-digit lead with 11:06 remaining. It was Indiana’s only three-pointer in the game.
“We get some incredible teachable moments out of a win,” Crean said. “They needed something to go right, that they can hang their hat on. We needed this.”
Pittsburgh, which out-rebounded Indiana 45-39, was led by a career-high 25 points from Ashton Gibbs. Wanamaker added 18 points.
Pick to Click winner: Jones
Bob Knight in attendance: The Hall of Fame coach worked the pre-game and post-game for ESPN and watched the Hoosiers in-person for the first time since 2000.
Watford on the crowd in the Garden: “I didn’t see many Pitt fans. When I looked around, I saw our fans, Hoosier nation.”
Jones on holding onto the lead: “Leadership really came into it. Devan (Dumes) did a great job, behind the scenes, of calming us down. It was a big game, nationally televised game, we knew that and we really wanted to win. Our hunger really showed.”
Indiana at Madison Square Garden: Indiana moved to 12-8 all-time at MSG. It was IU’s first win in the venue since 1996, when the Hoosiers beat Duke 85-69 in the Preseason NIT.
Jamie Dixon on IU’s performance: “I think they did a good job of taking us off the dribble. They got some scores inside from the big guys. They got to the free-throw line. They get to the free-throw line a lot but they also foul a lot and put guys on the free-throw line. Our goal was to get to the free-throw line. They outscored us by 13 from the free-throw line and they outscored us by 10. When you look at the stats of their opponents, their opponents are out-shooting them at the free-throw line and we didn’t do that tonight. The zone and how they defended early put us in that situation.”
For 31 minutes, Indiana and Maryland were engaged in a back-and-forth battle in Assembly Hall.
But after a Christian Watford free throw tied the game at 54 with 8:49 remaining, the more experienced Terrapins went on a 16-4 run on their way to a comfortable 80-68 win in the Big-Ten ACC Challenge.
The loss was the fourth in five games for Indiana.
Greivis Vasquez scored 23 points to lead Maryland (5-2), which shot 47 percent from the field. Vasquez hit 13 of 14 free throws. Three other Terrapins scored in double figures, led by 19 from Landon Millbourne.
“It was a winnable game and we did not pressure the ball well enough,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “We did not play physical enough, we did not play tough enough on the defensive end.”
The Hoosiers, on the other hand, shot just 33 percent and despite pulling down 20 offensive rebounds, scored just 16 second chance points. Maurice Creek scored 19 points to lead IU and Christian Watford added 16.
Indiana led by seven with 5:29 remaining in the first half on a pair of free throws by Creek, but Maryland closed the half on a 14-5 run to grab a 35-33 halftime lead.
The Terps took the lead for good at the 8:36 mark on a free throw by Adrian Bowie and IU’s final lead was 53-52 with 9:44 on a jump shot by Verdell Jones.
Besides Creek and Watford, Indiana struggled to find offense. Jones shot just 3-of-15 and Derek Elston and Devan Dumes each shot 2-of-10 from the floor. The Hoosiers hit just 7-of-26 three-point attempts.
Crean unhappy with student chants towards Vasquez: “We can be obnoxious, we can be nasty, we can cheer against the other team, but we never use vulgarity. We never use vulgarities against an opponent. That’s not what happened at Indiana in the past and it’s certainly not going to happen under my watch. But I love our fans. I love the energy they brought us tonight. We did not match the energy of our fans. But at no point in time are vulgarities in that crowd going to be accepted. And that cannot happy at Indiana. We have too much pride. We have too many great students, great memories, too many tradition based things here for anything to ever turn it the other way. And nobody deserves that. We’ve got to find a way to be obnoxious without being vulgar because we’re too good for that.”
Maryland turns it over: The Terrapins committed a season-high 18 turnovers. They came into the game averaging just 10.7 per game.
Jeremiah Rivers injury: After a reverse layup with 18:56 remaining in the first half, Rivers left the game with back spasms. He returned later in the first half and finished with five points, six rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 19 minutes.
Up next: Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden at 9:00 EST. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Crean discusses fan behavior, courtesy of Ronan O’Shea on YouTube:
Player postgame interviews, courtesy of IU Athletics on YouTube:
Here’s what Tom Crean had to say following Saturday’s victory against Northwestern State about the crowd support he’s hoping to have on Tuesday:
“We’ve got to get this crowd just as great as it can possibly be and as nuts as it can possibly be. And tell the fire marshall to stay home that night. We’ll get him tickets right behind the bench, we’ll let him come. Police chief too. We just need them all in here. We need everybody in here to make this place nuts.”
BLOOMINGTON — It was a rough trip to Puerto Rico for Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers. After beginning the season 2-0, Indiana dropped three straight games in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off Classic to Ole Miss, Boston University and George Mason.
But after six days off and numerous practices that emphasized defense, Indiana returned to Assembly Hall with a convincing 90-72 win over Northwestern State on Saturday.
“We had a very good week of getting better,” Crean said following the win. “We’ve had a very good week of starting to learn our roles and what’s important.”
Maurice Creek and Christian Watford scored 17 points each for the Hoosiers (3-3).
Indiana shot 48 percent from the field, hit 34 of 44 free throws and had assists on 19 of its 25 field goals, led by 10 from Jeremiah Rivers.
“He took what the game gave him,” Crean said of Rivers. “I was very impressed with him. He really read the game well. I was very proud of the way he played.”
Northwestern State (2-2) cut the lead to nine at 59-50 with 10:37 remaining, but Indiana responded with a 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Verdell Jones, to put the game away.
“It just seemed like they were in their rhythm, and to me, they are rhythm players,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. “I thought they did a good job with that and looked improved from what I’ve seen.”
Up next: Maryland on Tuesday at 7:30 PM for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on ESPN2.
Dumes gets back on track: The 6-2 senior scored 11 points off the bench in 22 minutes. “I felt it was a better effort today. I bring the effort every time. I just played a little better today,” Dumes said. He added that his knee is feeling about 80 to 85 percent healthy.
Elston brings energy off the bench: The 6-9 freshman had 12 points, six rebounds and four steals off the bench in 18 minutes. “I rebounded well today, something that coach has been harping on me about,” Elston said.
Indiana coach Tom Crean and Devan Dumes, Christian Watford and Derek Elston met with the media following Indiana’s 90-72 win over Northwestern State. Listen to their comments, as well as Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy, in the embedded media players below: