LAHAINA, HAWAII -- The Hoosiers needed a last-second air ball from Chaminade to escape the EA Sports Maui Invitational with a win.
After hitting a three with 4.7 seconds left to make it one-point game at 80-79, Chaminade called timeout. IU coach Tom Crean drew up a play to get the ball to one of his team's better free throw shooters, but the Silverswords denied the Hoosiers' guards the ball, forcing IU to inbound the ball to Tom Pritchard, who was immediately fouled.
The freshman had missed three of his last four from the free-throw line, but Crean had subbed the forward back in the game before the inbounds play.
"I knew (coach) had confidence in me to make my free throws and it gave me confidence in myself," Pritchard said after the game. "My free throws have always been a part of the game I've had to work on."
He calmly converted the first one, making it a two-point game. But the second one rimmed out, leaving the door open for Chaminade, a school well known for its upsets.
Chaminade junior guard Noah Gottlieb raced down the left side of the court and fired a three-point floater that sailed towards the rim. If it had gone the Hoosiers would have left Maui winless. If it had gone the Hoosiers would have finished in last place for the week. If it had gone the Hoosiers would have fallen to a Division-II school.
It didn't. The shot fell short: air ball.
The Hoosiers celebrated their 81-79 victory on the Lahaina Civic Center court. The win gave them a seventh-place finish in the prestigious preseason tournament.
After the final horn sounded, Crean and his team turned to the stands and applauded the IU fans that had made the trip and cheered for them all week.
"There is no price tag you can put on experiences like this," Crean said after the game. "We're not going to be a team that's blowing a lot of people out. We have to understand how to play in close games."
In the first six minutes, the third round showdown looked like anything but a close game. After struggling to get their offense going in the first two games in Maui, IU opened with a 16-2 run against the Silverswords. But Chaminade battled back, bringing the fate of the game down to the final possession.
"We learned that the game is never over in the beginning," Pritchard said. "If we come out and score a lot points ahead and we're early, we can never let down.
In the first half Wednesday IU's offense performed better than it had all week. They scored 51 points in the first 20 minutes, after scoring only 54 and 50 points, respectively, in their last two. The team had 12 assists in the first half, two more than they had the entire game against Saint Joseph's.
The team shot 70.4 percent from the field in the first half and was aided by freshman guard Verdell Jones III, who bounced back from two mediocre games to score 13 points and finish with four assists Wednesday.
"I watched a lot of film of my recent games and talked to the coaches. I was driving real tentative," Jones said. "After watching the film…I saw I wasn't going to the hole strong enough."
But Jones corrected the problem against Chaminade, hitting five of his six two-point field goal attempts.
In addition to Jones, four other Hoosiers scored in double-digits, led by Pritchard who finished with 19. Devan Dumes added 14, Malik Story came off the bench to score 12, and Daniel Moore scored a career-high 10 points, shooting as many times Wednesday as he had in his first four games combined.
Crean said his team's energy didn't dissipate, despite coming off back-to-back blowout losses and playing their third game in as many days.
"These guys worked so hard, I'm glad that we are going home with a win," he said.
NOTE: Matt Dollinger covers for the Hoosiers for the Indiana Daily Student.
Hoosiers Hold On For Maui Win
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