Indiana returned from Maui and cruised past one of the worst teams in the country -- Alcorn State -- 112-70 on Monday night at Assembly Hall.
In essence, we didn't learn anything new about this team on Monday night.
We'll learn a whole lot about them on Wednesday.
The Hoosiers' win over Alcorn State -- ranked 348th out of 351 Division 1 teams by KenPom.com -- was nothing more than final tune-up before Wednesday night's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at No. 5 Duke. It was a chance for them to feel good about themselves after a rough Maui Invitational last week, and an opportunity to work out some of their ailments.
Did they? Hard to tell. Alcorn State is really, really bad, and the Hoosiers were dominating them from the beginning. But a troubling trend with this team is how it plays with a lead, and that didn't change on Monday. The Hoosiers (5-2) seem to get bored and comfortable with a large lead. They stop playing as hard for a segment and start trying to make fancy plays instead of good plays.
Case in point: Leading 50-32 with 1:09 to go in the first half, Yogi Ferrell tried to make a no-look pass, and turned it over. Troy Williams blocked a shot on the other end, and then attempted to throw Ferrell an alley-oop on the other end. Another turnover.
It's those kind of silly segments that have haunted the Hoosiers in the past.
Indiana can't afford those kinds of turnovers on Wednesday night. Cameron Indoor will be an atmosphere unlike most of the IU players have ever seen, and Duke is among the most-talented and well-coached teams in the country. How will the Hoosiers react to adversity? Will they play better defense for a longer period of time? Will they cut out the careless turnovers?
"I don't think we'll have any trouble with being ready to play a game like that," said Indiana coach Tom Crean. "It's more about making sure we understand the personnel, understand what they wanna do, and understand how best we want to attack that. We wanna play fast, but we cannot play reckless. You can't play reckless against anybody and give the ball away, and you certainly can't do it there."
Win or lose, Wednesday night will teach us a whole lot about this team and what the rest of the season will look like. Duke (6-1) boasts the most efficient offense in the country, and a far better defense (28th) than the Hoosiers have seen to this point. It's also Indiana's first true road game of the season in perhaps the most hostile venue in college basketball.
"It's going to be their first true road game, that's the most important thing," Crean said. "I've coached against Duke and Mike [Krzyzewski]. I've not coached at Cameron, so I can't prepare them as much for that. It doesn't matter if I could. It's different. It's important that we stay in character, that we play the way we're capable of playing, play through mistakes."
Grayson Allen (22.6 ppg) is five inches taller than Ferrell, but I'd expect Ferrell to step up to the challenge of defending him like he has for other top scorers in the past (Nik Stauskus, Melo Trimble, etc.). Robert Johnson will likely get some time on him, too. And Duke certainly has more than just Allen.
Six other players are averaging between 6.6 and 12.7 points per game, and Amile Jefferson is averaging a double-double (11.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg).
"They really, really wanna get fouled," Crean said. "I think Grayson Allen might be averaging 7 or 8 fouls drawn per game. That's tough. We're gonna have to be really, really sharp defensively. It will be interesting to see how the game gets called early. I had a lot of coversations tonight with the referees. I was complaining, it was about trying to understand. I don't have complaints about the rules, I don't have complaints about the officiating. We're all just trying to understand it."
The Hoosiers are back in a spot they've been very comfortable with in the past: The underdog. Two losses in Maui bounced them from the Top 25, and few people expect them to win against the Blue Devils. Crean's teams have often performed best in such positions.
"It will be a challenge," Crean said of Duke. "We're looking forward to it, though."
33: Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. had a career-high 33 points on Monday night, including 24 in the first half. Blackmon was 11-of-15 from the field and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Blackmon scored a total of 30 points in three games in Maui last week. Blackmon's 33 points are the most by an Indiana player during the Tom Crean era. He left to a standing ovation with five minutes remaining.
112: Number of points Indiana scored on Monday night, its most of the season.
67: Indiana shot 65 percent from the field for the game (39-of-58).
15: Number of 3-pointers the Hoosiers made, on 26 attempts (58 percent). That's three shy of tying the school record of 18.
6: Number of Hoosiers who scored in double figures. Thomas Bryant and Yogi Ferrell had 13 points apiece, Robert Johnson had 12, Troy Williams had 11, and Collin Hartman had 10. James Blackmon, of course, had 33.