What was supposed to be a test for the Indiana basketball program Sunday night turned out to be more of a statement.
Paced by 27 points from Verdell Jones and a stifling defensive effort that limited Wright State to just 32.6 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc, Indiana (2-0) routed its Horizon League foe 67-44 in front of 15,261 at Assembly Hall.
While Indiana had cruised to an easy 88-60 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night, this victory wasn't supposed to come as easily. After all, while Tom Crean's Hoosiers had struggled to a combined 16 wins in the last two seasons, Wright State had posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns. Last season's run had ended just win shy of an NCAA tourney bid, as the Raiders lost to eventually NCAA runner-up Butler in the Horizon League championship game.
But there was little doubt who the better team was Sunday night. After spotting the visitors a 9-4 lead early on, IU put together a 15-1 run that gave the Hoosiers a 19-10 lead with seven minutes remaining in the opening half. Leading the surge was Jones, who scored 12 of IU's first 18 points and showed no ill effects from the ankle injury that had sidelined him for both of IU's exhibition wins.
Jones finished 11-of-14 from the field and added six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
"Verdell, I was concerned it may take a little time for him to get back in the flow, especially after the other night," Crean said. "But he blew that theory out of the water.
Every bit as good as Jones was Indiana's defensive effort overall. IU limited Wright State leading scorer Vaughn Duggins to 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting. No one else on the Raider roster scored in double figures, and they made only 4-of-14 3-point attempts and 10-of-23 from the free-throw line.
Indiana also dominated its foes on the glass. The Hoosiers owned a 40-20 edge on the glass, paced by 10 rebounds from Christian Watford. Watford followed up his 24-point, five-rebound performance against Florida Gulf Coast with a 17-point, 10-rebound effort against Wright State.
"I thought Christian continued to play really well tonight in a grind-it-out-game," Crean said.
While the Hoosiers remained in control of the game throughout, they didn't put the game away until they put together another 15-1 run to turn a 39-30 lead into a 54-31 rout with 5:57 remaining. All of the points came from Watford and Jones, who scored 10 and five, respectively, during the eight-minute flurry.
Next up for the Hoosiers is Mississippi Valley State, a team that nearly pulled off a stunning upset Friday, falling to Georgia 72-70. They'll provide another test for the Hoosiers, but Crean is clearly pleased with what he's seeing from his team in the early going.
""I'm proud of our guys," Crean said. "Our plus-minus, again, was very, very high. As I said the other night, when we come in you have to ask yourself two questions, did you win and did you impact the game and we had a lot of guys impact it on that plus-minus, which meant we got a lot of really positive contributions inside of the game."
Hoosiers Rip Wright State, 67-44
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