Bloomington, Ind. – For the first time in five years, Indiana was up to the Challenge.
After dropping its last four games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Indiana overcame a depleted roster, 17 turnovers, and sluggish starts to both halves to top Georgia Tech 83-79 in front of 17,230 at Assembly Hall.
While Eric Gordon scored 29 and D.J. White had an 18-rebound, 14-rebound, three-block effort, the Hoosiers also got some critical contributions from Lance Stemler and Mike White. Stemler made his first start since the season opener and scored 15 points, while White played his first game of the season and chipped in with two points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
Their play was huge for the Hoosiers, who were missing both Jordan Crawford and Brandon McGee. McGee has been sick in recent days and has missed practiced, while IU announced Crawford has been suspended for three games for violating unspecified team rules. Crawford was on the bench in street clothes, but won't be back until the Dec. 8 match-up against Kentucky.
The decision to play Mike White, though, wasn't predicated on the short bench. Instead, Sampson said afterwards it was in response to what he saw from his team during Saturday's 80-65 loss to Xavier. While Indiana had dominated its first four foes, it was exposed against the veteran-laden Musketeer squad.
"In the first four games, we won like we should have," Sampson said. "In the Xavier game…with those seniors and juniors, they exposed how immature and inexperienced we were."
That prompted Sampson to approach Mike White about scrapping the plan of redshirting this season.
"This team needs (Mike White)," Sampson said.
With White playing, both Eli Holman and DeAndre Thomas were non-factors. After starting the last four games Thomas came off the bench and played just two minutes, while Holman didn't play at all against the Yellow Jackets.
While the play of Mike White and Stemler was big, so was the efforts of Gordon and D.J. White. Gordon did commit eight turnovers, but he played all 40 minutes and came up with a slew of big baskets while scoring 18 points in the second half. He also earned 16 trips to the free-throw line, making 13 of his attempts.
"He's a very quick, explosive player who plays with a lot of confidence," said Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt.
D.J. White, meanwhile, had his best game of the season. He equaled his season averages of 12 points and six rebounds with five minutes remaining in the first half, and his season-high 14 rebounds helped the Hoosiers to a 37-32 edge on the glass against a Georgia Tech team that had a plethora of able-bodied big men to throw at the Hoosiers. While Jeremis Smith (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Gani Lawal (17 points, three rebounds off the bench) both had big games, it was White who kept the Hoosiers in the game early and controlled the glass.
"DJ he's our leader…he played hard," said Jamarcus Ellis, who contributed 12 of his season-high 15 points in the second half. "D.J.,when he's riled up, everyone else is riled up, when DJ is dead, we're dead."
Indiana might not have been dead early on, but it was undoubtedly sluggish, turning the ball over five times in the game's first four minutes. IU's early struggles, coupled with three early 3-pointers from Georgia Tech guard Lewis Clinch landed the Hoosiers in a quick eight-point hole, 26-18, midway through the first half.
But in a half of runs, Indiana answered with a 15-3 spurt to go up by seven over the next seven minutes. Gordon scored nine during the run, including a thunderous fast break dunk after a Stemler steal that cut the margin to one. Ellis then gave IU its first lead since the opening minutes with a 3-pointer, and Stemler capped the flurry with a 3-pointer to put IU up 36-29 with 2:27 remaining in the opening period.
Indiana would eventually settle for a four-point lead at half, 38-34.
But that lead quickly evaporated in the second half thanks to a 9-0 run in the half's first 4:08. The Georgia Tech margin would grow to six, 49-43, with 14:08 remaining before the Hoosiers mounted another comeback. Ellis scored on a couple of jumpers and a pair of free throws in the next 1:30 to help IU cut the lead to two, 51-49, with 12:36 left. The game would then remain a one-possession game until Indiana the seven-minute mark, when a D.J. White dunk pushed the margin to four, 62-58. The margin would continue to grow, finally reaching double figures when Gordon took a couple of bumps from Tech guard Matt Causey on the way down the floor before pulling back for a 3-pointer at the 3:37 mark that pushed the lead to 75-65.
Georgia Tech would get no closer than four the rest of the way, and Indiana had a win that helped ease the pain from Saturday's 15-point setback to Xavier.
"A game like Saturday would have been a waste if we hadn't been able to draw something from it," said Sampson.
D. White 6-9 6-12 18, Stemler 5-9 2-2 15, Bassett 1-6 1-2 4, Ellis 4-7 6-6 15, Gordon 7-14 13-16 29, Thomas 0-00-0 0, M. White 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 24-49 28-38 83.
GEORGIA TECH 79
Smith 4-8 2-4 10, Aminu 3-7 1-2 7, Clinch 6-15 3-4 18, Bell 2-4 1-2 5, Morrow 6-12 2-2 17, Causey 1-4 1-3 3, Miller0-1 0-0 0, Lawal 8-12 1-3 17, Peacock 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 31-66 11-20 79.
3-Pointers: Indiana 7-18 (Stemler 3-6, Gordon 2-6, Ellis 1-2, Bassett 1-4), Georgia Tech 6-16 (Morrow 3-6, Clinch 3-5, Peacock 0-2, Causey 0-2, Smith 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 37 (D. White 14), Georgia Tech 32 (Smith 11).Assists: Indiana 10 (Bassett 6), Georgia Tech 17 (Causey 6). Turnovers: Indiana 17 (Gordon 8), Georgia Tech 13 (Clinch 3, Bell 3, Causey 3). Blocks: Indiana 4 (D. White 3), Georgia Tech 3 (Lawal 3). Steals: Indiana 7, Georgia Tech 7. Officials: Steve Welmer, Ed Hightower, Jim Burr. Attendance: 17,230. Halftime Score: Indiana 38, Georgia Tech 34.
Short-Handed Hoosiers Prevail, 83-79
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