Saturday night gave Indiana another confidence boost heading into its biggest nonconference game left in the regular season.
The Hoosiers won their third straight game in a 105-60 route of McNeese State at Assembly Hall.
"I thought our guys played an impressive game from start to finish," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "We had some really good runs offensively and defenisvely, moved the ball well and got good shots. Some really good stands defensively which keyed our offense, so we're excited about that."
No one personified that effort more than Indiana sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr., who had two blocks to go along with a game-high 24 points.
He grabbed the defensive rebound off his first block with just over nine minutes left in the first half, raced down the court and split his defenders in the lane, making the layup and drawing the foul. His ensuing free throw to convert the And-1 opportunity completed a sequence that was part of a 19-4 Indiana run lasting four minutes.
While his second block didn't lead to a similar turn of events, it did match his total number of blocks from last season.
Blackmon Jr. successfully pushed the tempo like he did after his first block due to playing turnover-free basketball against the Cowboys. Indiana as a team committed just nine, tying its season low set against Duke in the Big Ten/ACC challenge.
"Ball movement, making the right pass, making the early pass to guys running the break and just being smart," said Blackmon Jr., when asked how the team was able to keep its turnovers low. "I feel like everyone took care of the ball tonight."
Foul trouble limited Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant in the Hoosiers' game against IPFW last Wednesday, as both were limited to four points each. Bryant also had a confidence-boosting performance Saturday, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field to go along with nine rebounds.
Crean acknowledged earlier in the week that Bryant had been dealing with "injury situations." When asked about his health after Saturday's game, Bryant said he was fine.
"I'm healthy," he said. "I'm just working on getting better each day with the team."
With a healthy Bryant at center, Indiana used an 11-0 run to break an 11-11 tie with 12:59 left in the first half and never lost the lead. The Hoosiers led by as many as 45 in the second half.
Saturday's game with McNeese State was the the third-to-last game of Indiana's non-conference schedule. The week of Dec. 14 marks final exam week, but it also marks the week Indiana will face Notre Dame, arguably its toughest non-conference opponent left, on Dec. 19 in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Bryant dismissed the notion that it would be difficult for the team to maintain focus with such a major opponent looming.
However, Blackmon Jr. is well-connected to some of Notre Dame's players and said the game is huge for him.
"It's a chance to play another Indiana team," Blackmon Jr. said. "We only get a couple chances after that, (and) I feel like we only get three chances at that this year, so it's something that we really want to win, it's something that we all talked about and it's always good to play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse."
Heading into that game scoring over 100 points its last game and committing its fewest turnovers since the Duke game, Indiana has every reason to be confident.
"We played relatively fast and at the same time didn't turn the ball over and give it back," Crean said. "We did a lot of good things tonight."