Indiana head coach Tom Crean couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
After a head scratching home loss to Lipscomb to close out 2008 and a road loss to Iowa in the Big Ten opener, the Hoosiers returned to Assembly Hall for a meeting with Michigan, who hadn’t won in Bloomington since 1995.
And with a 44-24 lead with 18:26 remaining, it appeared Indiana was on its way to a win over a team that was ranked in the top 25 as recently as last week with wins over UCLA and Duke.
But in this season of rebuilding, the upset wasn’t in the cards. Michigan closed the second half by outscoring the Hoosiers 35-15 to send the game into overtime and won 72-66 in front of 11,044 fans.
“There are no moral victories,” Indiana freshman guard Verdell Jones said. “We are all competitors and a loss is a loss whether you lose by 30 or you lose by one. We don’t want to feel like this again.”
Even after losing all of their momentum by squandering a 20-point cushion, Indiana had their chances to win in overtime.
But the Hoosiers (5-9, 0-2 Big Ten) hit only 3-of-9 free throws and 2-of-8 from the field in OT for their third straight home loss.
“It’s a unbelievably tough pill to swallow right now,” Crean said. “But they’ve gotta learn real quick that you just gotta turn right back around. Get right back at it and learn from the film.”
Laval Lucas-Perry paced the Wolverines (12-3, 2-1) with 18 points and Manny Harris added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Michigan shot just 39 percent, including 12 of 40 from behind the three-point arc.
Devan Dumes led Indiana with 17 points, Nick Williams scored 14 and Jones scored 13. Tom Pritchard just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Up next: Indiana travels to Champaign Saturday afternoon for a 3:00 meeting with Illinois. That game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Even a 20-point lead isn’t safe: For the second straight home game, Indiana squandered a 20-point lead.
Indiana natives struggle: Freshman Zack Novak, from Chesteron, scored just six points in 42 minutes and Carmel’s Stu Douglass managed just two points in 18 minutes.