Indiana returned to the hardwood last night coming off an emotional high with the victory against SMU just two nights prior. They would get another boost before this game even began as Devin Davis returned to The Assembly Hall just days after being released from an Indianapolis hospital. He got a great ovation as he walked out onto the court before the tip and looked to be his normal self. The Hoosiers got out of the gates slow though, especially on defense, as they only led 42-34 at the half against the #349 team according to the KenPom rankings (total of 351). With three minutes left to go in the game, the lead had actually decreased to 7 after some continued poor defensive play and the Hoosier faithful were clearly growing agitated with the lack of effort on the defensive end as Lamar scored on seven straight possessions, and all were easy buckets at the rim. The Hoosiers were able to hold on down the stretch for an 85-72 victory, but Coach Crean wants to see more defense out of his Hoosiers as he consistently said afterwards - "We've got to a better job defending the paint." Indiana was led in scoring and rebounding again by James Blackmon Jr with 21 points and 6 rebounds. So what did we learn about this Hoosier team last night?
Emmitt Holt is going to contribute this year - Holt saw his first action of the season last night for the Hoosiers and immediately contributed an offensive rebound, a steal and lay in on the other end, a defensive rebound, and another bucket in his first three minute stretch. At the half that gave Holt 4 points and 2 rebounds compared to Hanner Mosquera-Perea's previous 42 minutes of exactly one rebound and six points. If Perea is going to fail to make a difference on the boards, it is going to be up to players like the 6'7" Holt to try and contribute. Emmitt was also one of the very few bright spots on defense in this one which will earn him significant playing time if it continues. Due to the failure of the Hoosiers to pull away in this one, his playing time was still limited quite a bit as he only saw 5 minutes.
Indiana has to get better defensively - After a great performance against SMU where they forced 19 turnovers, the Hoosiers looked lost on defense most of the evening in this one. Lamar shot 50% from the field and only had 12 turnovers which is pretty ugly from a defensive perspective when you consider the competition being played. Coach Crean started Stanford Robinson in the second half to try and spark the defensive intensity and to Robinson's credit - he played fairly well on defense all night long. It just didn't rub off on his teammates and the Hoosiers will have to go back to the drawing board here before Monday's tilt with what appears to be a quality Eastern Washington squad early this season. may have said it best in the post game - "We had a great game plan, but the intensity from the beginning was lacking."
"We had a great game plan, but the intensity from the beginning was lacking." ~ Robert Johnson
Blackmon Jr. is not just a shooter - While Blackmon again led the team in points with 21, he also led the team for the second straight game in another category - rebounds. After grabbing 7 boards against SMU, Blackmon followed that up with a 6 board performance last night. The Hoosiers need their guards to rebound well this year given the obvious deficiencies down low - and Blackmon has answered the bell here early on. Everyone expected Blackmon to have a big scoring year and that is certainly going to be the case, but I don't think many expected him to have this kind of impact rebounding the ball. It will be interesting to see if this continues as the competition continues to get better.
The Hoosiers have another short turnaround as they will take on 3-1 Eastern Washington on Monday evening. EWU lost to SMU 77-68 last night, so they will be much more of a challenge than Lamar (who lost to SMU by 39) and Indiana will have to come with a better defensive spark and more intensity to be successful.