Game MVP - D.J. White. It was a career-night for the Hoosier big man, who scored a career-high 29 points to go along with 13 rebounds and four blocks. He hit IU's first five shots from the field as the Hoosiers opened a quick 14-4 lead, and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field in the opening half as IU went into intermission up 13, 48-35. While a huge night against a Ohio Valley Conference foe might not appear as important as turning in that sort of effort against a team like Kentucky, the Hoosiers needed White's big night thanks to the loss of Eric Gordon late in the first half. When Gordon went down IU led by 19, but in his absence Tennessee State cut the lead to double digits a handful of times in the second half. But White's performance was the biggest reason why the Hoosiers didn't fall victim to a stunning upset on its home floor.
Biggest Surprise… Bruce Price having his way with the Hoosiers. Tennessee State's leading scorer scorched the Hoosiers for 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc. While Armon Bassett could have done a better job of keeping Price under wraps, much of the credit goes to Price, who played a whole lot better than the scouting report would suggest. Thanks to Price's 5-of-25 shooting from behind the 3-point arc entering the game, IU's strategy was to go under the ball screen early on and thus try to keep Price from penetrating into the lane and getting to the free-throw line. That was certainly a sound strategy based on Price's 32 percent overall shooting and 20 percent 3-point clip entering the contest, but the junior guard connected on four 3-pointers in the final 4:16 of the first half, including a couple that were from 25 feet. It also helped Price's cause that Gordon was out and couldn't be matched up against him, and that IU was so woefully thin at the guard position that Sampson couldn't throw any fresh players on him in an effort to slow him down.
What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana did manage to survive a difficult three-game stretch with basically seven players. With the ineligibility of A.J. Ratliff, the suspension of Jordan Crawford and the illness of Brandon McGee, Sampson basically had seven players at his disposal for the last three games. Two of those games were against top-notch competition (Georgia Tech and at Southern Illinois), while the third game was made more difficult when the team's best player, Gordon, went down with an injury 15 minutes in. As a result of the player absences, Armon Bassett averaged 37.7 minutes in the last three games, Ellis averaged 36 and Gordon played all 40 minutes in each of the last two games and 12 against Tennessee State before getting injured. While many had expected the Hoosiers to handle Tennessee State much easier than they did, it was a game that the Hoosiers needed to survive more than anything else. They did that by getting a huge night from D.J. White, some clutch shots from Lance Stemler, and by showing some resiliency in the second half.
What I Found Most Concerning… Gordon's Injury. All indications are that the 6'4" freshman will be back in the line-up Saturday when the Hoosiers host Kentucky, but Gordon was clearly in pain after taking his first-half spill onto the court. He tried to continue after D.J. White's free-throws, but he was limping badly enough that the officials stopped the game and Gordon went to the bench, and subsequently the locker room, for the rest of the night. Whether it was Gordon's coccyx (tailbone) or his back that was hurting is still a bit unclear, but it did prompt the staff to have him go for precautionary x-rays. Even if he's back, it's questionable whether it is an injury that will be completely healed on Saturday or if it is something that will linger. That won't become clear until Kentucky arrives in town.
Turning Point: After Tennessee State's Moraye Ivey cut the Hoosiers' lead to seven with a 3-pointer at the 7:29 mark, senior Lance Stemler answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Hoosiers on top 71-58 with 6:04 remaining. Tennessee State would get no closer than the final margin of 12 the rest of the way. Before Stemler's first make the Hoosiers had missed 11 of their first 12 attempts from behind the arc, including three misses by Stemler. But his two straight 3-pointers pretty much put a halt to Tennessee State's upset bid.
"(Eric Gordon will) be fine. I think they took him for some precautionary x-rays, but he'll be fine…even if he could have come in the second half, I wouldn't have brought him back." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"When (Gordon) went down, we all knew we had to step up our play." – D.J.White.
"I think D.J. is starting to take pride in this double-double thing. One of our special things we do with our kids is signing that bubble, and Jamarcus and D.J. both have been signing it quite a bit lately."- Sampson
"Our guards have been playing too many minutes. We were a foul away from playing four post guys at the end. That's the way it is…we have five guards, and right now I only see two of them. But we'll get them back eventually." –Sampson
"It's what I do, it's my job (rebounding), to be physical and be aggressive and to get as many rebounds as I can." – Mike White.
"When I made the decision to discipline Jordan (Crawford), we knew these three games were going to be tough. I'm really happy we were 3-0. We won all three games, that's the most important thing. I'm not really into analyzing this game. We won it. A month from now, it's going to be a W, just like the Southern Illinois game was a W." – Sampson.
Upon Further Review - Tennessee State
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