Right from the get-go it was apparent that the Alcorn State Braves would be in for a long night, and a long night it was as the Indiana Hoosiers came away with a 42 point win Monday night at Assembly Hall.
More than anything, this was a great way for Indiana to rebound after a tough trip to the Maui Invitational where they ended the tournament 1-2 and another way to prepare for the highly anticipated battle with the Duke Blue Devils coming up on Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In this game, however, the Hoosiers came out firing on all cylinders and opened up a 15-2 lead less than four minutes into the game. From there, it didn't get much better as the closest it got for the rest of the game was just nine points with 7:54 to go in the first half.
It wasn't a very memorable game as it wasn't a close game for nearly the duration, but for James Blackmon Jr., this sure was one to remember. Blackmon Jr. finished with a career high 33 points on 11-for-15 shooting along with knocking down six three-pointers. The Hoosiers led 53-34 at halftime and Blackmon Jr. had 24 of those first half points for the Hoosiers as they controlled this one throughout.
"James' (Blackmon, Jr.) shooting was certainly impressive," Crean said of Blackmon's performance. "But the 15 deflections were far more impressive to me because that's what you want to do. You want to get it to the point where your defense is creating your offense."
If there was one downside to look at for Indiana in this game, it would be the 15 offensive rebounds and the 14 second chance points that Alcorn State was able to achieve. The Braves were led by Tamarcio Wilson in this game who ended with 15 along with Reginald Johnson and DeAndre Davis who both also scored in double figures with 14 and 10 points respectively. Davis and Johnson both had five offensive rebounds to lead the game.
"I think at times we had three guys on the ball which created backside boards, and at times we had two or three guys trying to block the shot, which is not what you want," coach Tom Crean said about the offensive rebounding. "We knew we wanted to change defenses more in the second half, and we did, and it got better."
The Hoosiers weren't going to be stopped by a team like Alcorn State as the Hoosiers ended with six players in double figures. On the night, Indiana shot the lights out, finishing the night shooting 67 percent from the field along with seeing an uptick in free throws shooting 76 percent from the stripe.
After a dominating first half, the Hoosiers kept the foot on the pedal and ran the Braves out of the gym en route to a blowout win after a long trip home before a busy week ahead.
"It's a good win to the start of a really busy week, and a big week, obviously, because we're going on the road to Duke, but I thought they really responded over the last three days, coming back," Crean said. "So really proud of all of them, and proud of the way they prepared and proud of the way they came out and played the 40 minutes."
If there is anything to take out of this game, it is confidence in the fact that the Hoosiers maybe played their worst basketball a week ago, but were able to put that behind them and trounce an opponent like Alcorn State. They may have been looking ahead to Duke, but they sure didn't showing that in this one.
"We're treating every team the same," said Troy Williams. "All that stuff that happened in Maui is definitely in the past now. We watched the film and went over it as a team and together by ourselves. The coaches went over it with everybody, came back, watched more film. That's all in the past. Now we focus on the next game."
With the focus now squarely on Duke, the Hoosiers talked about the challenges that face them when they go into that hostile environment on Wednesday.
"Indiana brings so many opportunities, and Wednesday is definitely a huge opportunity for us," said Blackmon Jr. "So we're just going to practice hard like we have been and get it rolling and come out and do what we're supposed to do."
Duke presents "tremendous challenges" according to coach Crean and it will be Indiana's first true road test of the year.
"Duke provides a lot of challenges because of the way they drive the ball, they have very good spacing, and they're shooting the ball at a high rate," Crean said. "It will be a challenge so we're looking forward to it though."
The Hoosiers will travel to Duke for the first time since 2006, when the Hoosiers suffered a close loss in the another edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Duke has also won 120-consecutive non-conference home games.