For the second straight game Indiana put together an amazing half of offense. And the rest of the contest final 20 minutes wasn't ‘half bad’ as well. It all added up to a 95-73 blitz of No. 7 seed Iowa tonight to open the Big Ten tournament.
The win moves the No. 10 seed Hoosiers (18-14) to a 6:30 p.m. ET quarterfinal match-up Friday night against No. 2 seed Wisconsin (23-8, 12-6).
A game after running up 54 first half points at Ohio State, Indiana broke open a tight game in a second half, racking up 52 points on a gaudy 79 percent effective field goal rate.
The 52 points were the most for the Hoosiers in any final half this season against a conference opponent.
James Blackmon Jr. scored 18 of his team high 23 points in the half, making all five of his shots in the final stanza, including a trio of 3-pointers.
De’Ron Davis added a career high 15 points and Thomas Bryant finished with 11 points. Bryant also had a career high five blocks. That’s also a team high for the season.
“I saw a lot of ball movement out there,” Bryant said. “We were moving fast, scoring (off) cuts out there. When that ball starts moving, shots start falling and it gets contagious out there.”
Indiana was good all game from downtown, making 12-for-20 from beyond the arc, including 6-for-8 in the second half when Indiana made 67.9 percent of its shots.
“I thought they were playing really relaxed,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “A lot of different people were making threes. You got to give them credit. They were moving the ball. They played in and out. They shared it.
“They shot 68 percent. The first thing you got to do is give Indiana credit. They executed. They moved the ball. They took good shots. But obviously from our perspective, our defense was not nearly what it needed to be to compete with a team that has that many weapons.”
It wasn’t just the shooting. Indiana defended well, especially against Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Jok was just 4-for-11 and finished with nine points, 11 below his average. Sophomore forward Juwan Morgan deserves much of that credit.
“I think it starts on the defensive end,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We're making shots that we have at times missed this year. But it was never a question that we were not a good shooting team. It's a matter of making sure that the ball is moving. Whether it's sets, concepts, free-flowing, whatever it is, the break, the shot clock, everything in between. As long as the ball is moving, we're ready to shoot, we're playing through the paint or the post, those are when good things happen.
Indiana turned it over 17 times to 12 for the Hawkeyes but the Hoosiers owned a 22-18 edge in points off turnovers. Five different players made a least two 3-pointers including two guys in their first college postseason games, freshman guards Devonte Green and Curtis Jones.
This was the second game in a row Indiana has scored at least 95 points. That point total is the second most by any team in the Big Ten tournament, just two short of the 97 that Maryland had against Nebraska a year ago.
“We’re playing more like we should be playing and it’s the healthiest we’ve been in a long time,” Blackmon Jr. said.
Nagging injuries for Blackmon Jr., Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis aren’t the problems they were for this team in February.
The quarterfinal game against Wisconsin should be the ultimate test for how far Indiana has come. The Badgers have been kryptonite for the Hoosier offense over the last decade.
With 18 wins including victories over two top five teams (Kansas and North Carolina), Indiana is still getting some NCAA bubble mention despite a 7-11 conference mark. Adding a win over over the No. 2 seed Badgers would make things awfully interesting.