WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indiana entered halftime of its Big Ten Tournament opener with a three-point lead against Iowa.
Then James Blackmon Jr. took over.
And it was over.
The junior guard scored 12 points in a six-minute stretch on the way to a team-high 23 points on nine field goal attempts to spearhead the Hoosiers’ 95-73 blowout of Iowa on Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
Blackmon shot 4-for-5 from the arc, 7-for-9 from the field overall as Indiana scored the second-most points in the history of the Big Ten Tournament, which began in 1998. Maryland's 97 last year is the record.
“It was just when we came in at halftime, we were talking about our defense and energy,” Blackmon said. “Once we get rebounds from our guards, we get run outs. It gets the flow of the game going, and I just got into a rhythm.”
Indiana, which led 43-40 at halftime, has scored 96 and 95 points its past two games.
The 10th-seeded Hoosiers (18-14) play No. 2 seed Wisconsin (23-8) on Friday (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).
“I feel like this is as healthy as we’ve been as a team in a long time, collectively,” Blackmon said.
“I feel like if I’m 100 percent, this is as close as I’ve been toward the end of the season. I keep getting better I feel like.”
Blackmon missed three games from Jan. 29-Feb. 5, but even though he returned on Feb. 9, he was still in the process of getting healthy, specifically regaining his burst that helps him do a number of things, including get free and clear space for his shooting.
On Thursday night, that looked like it was starting to return to his early season form.
“He played big for us, especially in the second half,” freshman guard Curtis Jones said. “He came out and locked up defensively, and that led to confident shooting. He was hot.
“It’s fun to watch because he works so hard. To see him put shots like that together. It’s fun to watch. You can see it coming and you just get him the ball.”
Blackmon has two of IU’s best offensive performances in the Big Ten Tournament. His 25 points in 2015 against Northwestern are tied with Andrae Patterson (vs. Ohio State, 1998) for the most by an IU player in the event.
Blackmon had an offensive rating of 187 Thursday night, his best of the season per KenPom’s ratings.
IU coach Tom Crean said one of the keys to Blackmon’s 18-point second half was his cutting, particularly side to side.
“When he does that, whether it's off a screen, which is a little more set, but when it's just moving without the ball, getting into the open gaps, then separating off the dribble a little bit, he could have done an even better job of that. We'll be able to show him some of that on the film.
“Again, he's a byproduct of what they all are. The defense was there. Our rebounding was there. We weren't putting them at the foul line. The bottom line is we were able to carry that to the offensive end and really move well without the ball, and the ball moved accordingly.”
And Blackmon did more than score. He had eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one turnover in 32 minutes. He was plus-20 in the plus-minus.
One of the statistics that Crean tracks is how productive IU’s possessions are when its guards get rebounds.
Blackmon was big in that area as well, tying forward Juwan Morgan with a team-high eight rebounds. Robert Johnson had six rebounds, Devonte Green five, Josh Newkirk four and Curtis Jones one, giving IU guards 24 of the Hoosiers’ 38 rebounds.
“It was just me trying to win,” Blackmon said of his overall game. “I wasn’t really trying to pay attention to anything, but rebounding was something I tried to focus on because that’s something they got us on last game.”
IU outrebounded the Hawkeyes 38-29 on Thursday after outrebounding them 39-34 in Iowa’s 96-90 overtime win in Iowa on Feb. 21.
Blackmon passed Quinn Buckner and Jeff Newton on IU’s all-time scoring chart and is now in 35th place with 1,207 points, just behind Tom Coverdale’s 1,217.
“He’s a great player,” IU freshman guard Devonte Green said. “It’s great to play with him every day and watch him perform like that on any given night.”