Bloomington, Ind. – It took the Indiana Hoosiers almost the entire first half to warmup, but once they did there was no stopping them, as they sailed to 99-65 win on opening night against Nicholls State. Indiana led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but the Colonels battled back to within four points late in the half and trailed by just 10 points at the half to the heavily favored Hoosiers.
"I thought we came out flat in the first half," said senior Sean Kline. "That's kind of disappointing with all the hype of the season. I thought everyone was pretty anxious and to come out flat was very disappointing. I thought we picked it up in the second half, because we came out very intense and got some things done."
The Hoosiers led 32-18 midway through the first half, their largest lead in the opening period, but after two missed free throws and a layup by Marco Killingsworth and two missed field goals by Lewis Monroe, Nicholls went on an 8-0 run. That pulled the Colonels within four at 32-26 with just under 8 minutes to go in the first half. That was as close as Nicholls would get for the rest of the night as Indiana went into the locker room up by 10.
In the second half Indiana was able to stretch the lead, but Nicholls kept pace and stayed within 16 points of the Hoosiers until back-to-back three-pointer from Strickland and Robert Vaden pushed the Indiana lead to 75-53 with just over 11 minutes to go in the game. Nicholls never got back within 20.
Indiana scored the most points on opening night since 1992-93 when the Hoosiers won 103-80 against Murray State. That season also marked the last time the Hoosiers won an outright Big Ten title.
"We're going to score some points," said Indiana Head Coach Mike Davis. "Even though we scored 99 points, we still had that feeling inside that we have a long way to go. I like that. That's a positive thing to score 99 points and still have room for improvement."
Marco Killingsworth led the Hoosiers with 28 points in his first official game in Cream and Crimson and recorded his first double-double after picking up 13 rebounds. He also picked up six assists on the night. Killingsworth finished 12-of-18 from the floor, but connected on just 3-of-7 free throws.
"Marco is fantastic," said Davis. "I've been saying for a year now how good he is. And you still haven't seen him play. He has a long way to go, but it's amazing how well he is playing and he still has room for improvement. We haven't had a presence that."
Marshall Strickland pitched in a career high with 25 points, including 4-of-5 shooting from three-point land and 9-of-12 shooting overall. Four of Indiana's starters scored in double figures with Kline and Lewis Monroe scoring 10 each to go along with Killingsworth and Strickland, while Errek Suhr added 11 points of the bench with 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. He also chipped in eight rebounds and three assists. Monroe led all Hoosiers with seven assists.
"Just playing with the big guys is so much fun out there," said Strickland. "I get a lot of clean looks at the basket and it just makes the game really fun to play. I was able to get into my rhythm early and get my feet under my shot. Once I do that, I feel like every one is going in."
Indiana seemed to cure the rebounding ills momentarily, edging the Colonels 55-21 on the boards. That included a 28-12 edge at the half. However, the defense was still questionable as Nicholls was able to score 42 points in the first half. Indiana was able to shut them down in the second half, allowing just 23 points in the closing period. The Hoosiers did not allow a field goal in the final 5:14 of the game.
"I think we came out like every team does in the first game," said Strickland. "We were a little slow and a little hesitant but once we got our rhythm and started playing the way we wanted to play, everything fell into place for us."
Stefan Blaszczynski led Nicholls with 26 points on the night on 9-of-20 shooting. He was one of only two Colonel players to go in double digits with Ryan Bathie adding 11. Blaszczynski scored 13 points in the first half to keep Nicholls in the game as long as he could. Indiana was unable to shut him or the Colonels down in the first 20 minutes, allowing 54.3 percent shooting in the first half.
"We're going to score a lot of points, we have the ability to do that," said Kline. "But our main focus has to be on the defensive end. We have to get things done defensively because against good teams, you have to play defense."
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