The University of Evansville came into Assembly Hall sporting the best 3-point shooting percentage in the country. It didn't look like it on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.
In Indiana's 77-46 win over the Purple Aces, the large scoring margin wasn't created by flashy offense, but rather gutty defense.
"Our focus is always on defense," senior walk-on Jeff Howard said. "We think that when we play defensively, it creates offense for us. So, we came into the game knowing they led the country in some shooting percentages, and we took that personally and didn't want them to come in here and match some of those numbers they had been putting up."
Focus seemed to be an understatement. For a team that had been hitting 52.7 percent of their 3-point attempts, the Purple Aces looked shell shocked against the Hoosier defense, hitting a mere three shots from beyond the arc after spotting up for 16.
Sophomore guard D.J. Balentine was averaging over 29 points per contest coming into Assembly Hall. Will Sheehey, Evan Gordon, and even Yogi Ferrell were tasked with locking Balentine down, and the red-hot shooter was put on ice. While Balentine finished with a team-high 14 points, he was only able to hit two of his 10 field goal attempts.
Head coach Tom Crean spoke after the game about wanting a complete 40 minute performance from his team, not just being good in spurts. He mentioned his team's shot challenging and defensive boxing out as keys to holding Evansville under 50 points, the first time Indiana has accomplished that feat this season.
While the Aces were able to settle in and hit nine field goals in the half compared to seven in the first, the Hoosiers kept the nation's second best shooting team to a season low 29.1 percent.
"Our switching was good," Crean said. "We were very locked into them."
Aside from a few silly fouls, the Hoosiers looked as though they were not going to allow Evansville to come up with any points very easily. It took the Aces over six minutes to even put themselves on the scoreboard after falling into a 12-point hole.
Even the rebounding showed Indiana's dominance throughout the game, crashing the boards hard for a defensive rebounding margin of 18, outrebounding the visitors 58-30 overall.
This is the type of defensive performance that Indiana will need to build upon if it hopes to compete for one of the top spots in the Big Ten conference. But before the Hoosiers get there, they will need to find a way to match up against No. 8 Syracuse (6-0).
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