Oh, how playing at Assembly Hall can change things.
Just four nights after they shot a combined 5-of-27 in a heartbreaking loss at Maryland, freshman guards James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson rebounded in a big way and carried Indiana to a 90-71 win over Minnesota at Assembly Hall on Sunday night.
The struggles of Blackmon Jr. and Johnson were among the chief reasons the Hoosiers fell short in College Park on Wednesday night. Yogi Ferrell repeatedly worked to get them open shots, and they missed the majority of them in a 68-66 loss.
Back home on Sunday, though, the two guards made a combined 15-of-24 shots from the field, including 11 3-pointers, as the Hoosiers broke a school record with 18 3-pointers. Blackmon Jr. had a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, with seven rebounds, two assists and zero turnovers.
Johnson had 19 points and made 5-of-8 3s with four assists and three rebounds. He did have a team-high six turnovers, but Indiana's ridiculous shooting more than made up for the miscues.
So, was it just a matter of breaking through the freshman wall, or is it more about the comforts being at home provide?
"They've hit the wall a couple times," Crean said. "I don't think [Maryland] was a wall situation. They missed some shots. But those guys played a lot of minutes. They were there on the court at the end of the game. A wall is when you're mentally not able to stay with it defensively, you're getting discourage easily. That's not the case at all. You don't want the mental part of that to play in because it's really not there. Physically, they're good. You don't want the fact that they missed a couple of shots to take them away from what their most important job is, which is to play a complete game.
"They work hard on their shooting. I think if you hit a wall, you wouldn't be spending that extra time. We hit that wall a couple times. Will we hit it again? Maybe so. That certainly wasn't the case on Wednesday night. They wouldn't have come back and played the way they did today if it was."
It's not a wall, got it. But there is definitely a major difference between home and away for these freshmen, especially with Blackmon. In six Big Ten road games (he missed the game at Wisconsin), Blackmon is averaging just over 10 points per game on 27 percent shooting (20-of-74). He has made only 8-of-30 (27 percent) shots from beyond the arc on the road.
In six Big Ten home games, Blackmon is averaging 18 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
If the Hoosiers want to win some games in the postseason, they will need Blackmon to play better away from Assembly Hall. If they had gotten anything at all from him against Maryland last week, they'd be 9-4 in conference play right now.