Crean, Hoosiers Victorious In Debut, 83-65

Bloomington – Welcome to Indiana Basketball, 2008-09. In a season where no opponent can be overlooked, Indiana scratched, clawed, battled and ultimately pulled away from its relative no-name season-opening opponent, topping Northwestern State 83-65 in front of 13,446 at Assembly Hall in its season opener...

Bloomington – Welcome to Indiana Basketball, 2008-09.

In a season where no opponent can be overlooked, Indiana scratched, clawed, battled and ultimately pulled away from its relative no-name season-opening opponent, topping Northwestern State 83-65 in front of 13,446 at Assembly Hall in its season opener.

It wasn't always pretty, as Indiana committed 23 turnovers, missed 13 free throws and was out-rebounded 52-41. But in season where no win will be easy or unappreciated, the Hoosiers played hard on both ends of the floor and forced its Southland Conference foe into 30 turnovers of its own on its way to the 18-point win.

Indiana's approach wasn't lost on Northwestern State Coach Mike McConathy, who takes his team to play at some of the tougher venues around the country on an annual basis.

"I thought they played hard," McConathy said. "A lot of times when we play I feel like a Barnum and Bailey circus we travel so much and you don't see big-time programs play hard. They competed really hard, and that's a tribute to the staff."

In Crean's mind, his team doesn't have a choice. While Assembly Hall remains an intimidating place due to the tradition and the crowd, Indiana's revamped roster won't place a great deal of fear into many opponents this season.

"There won't be one team that will come in here and not think they can win the game," Crean said. "We have to make sure that doesn't happen."

It didn't happen Saturday as IU won its season opener for the 11th consecutive season and Crean became the eighth straight IU coach to win his first game. Crean admitted he felt some nerves of his own before his first game, but also welcomed the reaction from a less-than-sellout crowd that was still loud throughout.

"My stomach knew it was a real game," said Crean. "It's so awesome to walk out and see that crowd. To be on the home team bench and know they're cheering for the team I'm standing with, that's a good feeling. It's an intimidating presence when you're on the other end."

Early on it didn't appear to intimidate Northwestern State, as the Demons hit five of their first six shots to open a 12-5 lead four minutes into the game. But Devan Dumes hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the margin to one, and Indiana eventually put together a 9-1 run midway through the opening half to take a seven-point lead, 26-19.

While Dumes and the Hoosisers started heating up, Northwestern State was cooling off. The Demons missed 23 of their final 29 shots from the field in the opening half, and went into halftime trailing 38-29. Things weren't any better in the second half as Northwestern State shot just 31.4 percent (11-of-35) in the second half and 31.9 percent (22-of-69) for the game.

Indiana, meanwhile, got a big game from Dumes, who made 6-of-10 shots, including four 3-pointers, to lead IU with 21 points. Verdell Jones added 18 points, four rebounds and three blocks, while Tom Pritchard chipped in 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

While Pritchard had double-digit rebounds, the Hoosiers did have their issues on the boards. Indiana was out-rebounded 52-41, including a 27-14 edge on the offensive glass. The Demons were able to turn all of those second chances into only 13 second-chance points, but it's clearly an issue that Crean's team will have to deal with moving forward.

"They're used to being able to out-jump their opponent," Crean said of his young team. "That's not the case in Division I. We have to get into bodies, into the things and rebound with both hands a little more."

That will come with time, and most likely with some growing pains along the way. With a team made up almost entirely of newcomers, the Hoosiers have no choice but to learn as they go.

"I don't think we have any time to grow up," said Pritchard. "This first game was good for us to understand what it's like in a college situation. Games will get tougher, and we'll have to continue to play hard."

The games will start getting more difficult on Tuesday, when IU welcomes IUPUI at 6:30 p.m. That will be the Hoosiers' final tune-up before they head to Maui and a first-round encounter with No. 9 Notre Dame.

Crean knows it won't be easy at any point this season, but he's glad both he and his team have their first win under their collective belt.

"They'll never forget their first win as part of the IU basketball family in Assembly Hall," Crean said.

INDIANA 83
Pritchard 5-8 3-5 13, Taber 2-6 0-0 4, Jones 4-11 10-13 18, Williams 2-5 2-4 6, Dumes 6-10 5-6 21, White 0-0 0-0 0, Roth 2-5 4-4 9, Moore 2-3 2-3 6, Finkelmeier 1-3 0-0 2, Schutz 0-0 1-2 1, Barnett 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Story 1-4 1-2 3, Jobe 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 25-56 28-41 83.

NORTHWESTERN STATE 65
White 2-5 0-0 5, Petravicius 2-4 0-0 4, Mosley 0-0 2-4 2, M. McConathy 1-11 5-7 7, Jones 6-11 2-2 17, Knight 0-0 1-2 1, Brooks 0-4 0-2 0, L. McConathy 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 0-6 2-2 2, Watkins 0-4 0-0 0, Richardson 1-1 2-4 4, Hancock 3-13 0-0 8, Porterie 6-7 0-3 12, Hulbin 1-2 0-0 2, Clark 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 22-69 15-28 65.

3-Pointers: Indiana 5-16 (Dumes 4-8, Roth 1-4, Jones 0-2, Moore 0-1, Williams 0-1), Northwestern State 6-22 (Jones 3-6, Richardson 2-8, White 1-1, McConathy 0-5, Clark 0-1, Watkins 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 41 (Pritchard 10), Northwestern State 52 (Clark 8). Assists: Indiana 17 (Jones 5), Northwestern State 15 (McConathy 4). Turnovers: Indiana 23, Northwestern State 30. Blocks: Indiana 5 (Jones 3, Pritchard, Taber), Northwestern State 9 (Clark 4, White 2, Clark 1, Jones 1). Steals: Indiana 15, Northwestern State 12. Attendance: 13,446. Officials: J.D. Collins, Mike Kitts, Terry Wymer. Halftime Score: Indiana 38, Northwestern State 29.

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