INDIANAPOLIS - Whatever energy was lacking at a far-less-than-capacity Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday afternoon, IU Coach Tom Crean more than made up for it.
The Hoosier coach squatted and then pounded the floor in an effort to get his team to get a defensive stop, and he threw a haymaker after a deep Matt Roth 3-pointer beat the shot clock. He pleaded with the officials, worked his team possession by possession, and implored the IU crowd and cheerleaders to get on their feet and help energize his upstart team against No. 5 Gonzaga.
Crean's team mirrored his intensity throughout, and it worked well enough to keep the Hoosiers from getting drilled in the first-ever basketball game in Lucas Oil. But ultimately Gonzaga proved to be too much, prevailing 70-54 in the Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase.
In IU's third match-up against a top-15 foe in two weeks, Indiana managed to stay within five at halftime, and then used some timely second half 3-pointers from Devan Dumes and Malik Story to keep within striking distance until the closing minutes. But the Zags (6-0) eventually pulled away behind 17 points from game MVP Josh Heytvelt and 13 points and eight rebounds from Jeremy Pargo.
While Crean wasn't happy with the final score of IU's fourth double-digit loss in eight games, he took a great deal of solace in how his team played throughout.
"Before we could talk about strategy, we had to get in our mind that we were going to come in and compete," Crean said. "I'm very proud of them for that. They did that. They played to win, they played with a mindset, and now we have to build on it."
Indiana's approach helped it stay in the game despite plenty of physical miscues. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 25 times, giving them 51 turnovers in the last two games. They also shot 24 percent from the floor in the first half and 30.4 percent for the game and were dominated 46-10 in points in the paint.
But for the things they did wrong, Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said there was one thing in particular that they did right.
"The best compliment you can give a coach is his team plays hard, and (Crean's) team is playing extremely hard," Few said. "They are young, they just don't have as many horses as they've had in the past."
Those young players managed to play with a Gonzaga team that already owns impressive wins over Oklahoma State, Maryland and Tennessee this season.
After the team exchanged baskets early on, Gonzaga turned a one-possession game into a six-point first half lead and appeared ready to pull away much like Wake Forest did Wednesday night. But Tom Pritchard countered with a nice spin move that ended with a right-handed four-footer in the lane, and he then added a conventional 3-point play to cut the margin to one and keep Indiana close.
Gonzaga also appeared ready to pull away early in the second half. The Hoosiers turned the ball over on their first four second-half possessions, and the Zags stretched the lead to 11. But Nick Williams hit a couple of free throws to halt the run. After back-to-back Matt Bouldin layups allowed Gonzaga to stretch the lead back to 13, 49-36, Dumes hit a 3 to get the lead back to 10, and Pritchard scored on back-to-back layups moments later to get IU within seven, 41-34, with 13:20 remaining.
The second half continued along a similar path the rest of the way – the Zags would open a double-digit lead nine times in the game's final 20 minutes, only to see IU get it back down to single digits each time. The final time came at the 3:35 mark, when a pair of Dumes free throws cut the lead to nine, 60-51.
But Gonzaga proceeded to pull away. Bouldin scored on two straight layups to extend the lead to 13. The exclamation mark on Gonzaga's victory was delivered with 1:03 remaining, when Pargo corralled a loose ball and extended the Zags' lead to 69-54 with a breakaway tomahawk dunk.
"It's a good win for our program to come out here and get a win," Few said. "We needed the experience and learn how to win an ugly grinder type of game."
While many expected the Zags to win in a laugher, Few said IU's approach wouldn't allow that to happen.
"When a team is playing as hard as Indiana, it's hard to get separation from them," Few said.
After getting thumped by Notre Dame and Saint Joseph's in Maui and then Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, there were plenty of positives for Crean to take from Saturday's result. But he also didn't want to take too much from a game that still wound up being a 16-point loss.
"I don't think we can try to teach them moral victories are okay," Crean said. "We don't want any type of losing mindsets or habits creeping into the program."
Pritchard 4-6 5-7 13, Taber 1-2 1-2 4, Moore 0-4 1-2 1, Williams 0-4 2-2 2, Dumes 4-15 4-4 15, roth 1-4 0-0 3, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Schutz 0-0 2-2 2, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Story 4-11 4-5 14, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-46 19-24 54.
Daye 3-13 1-3 7, Heytvelt 6-12 5-6 17, Pargo 5-8 2-3 13, Bouldin 6-9 1-2 13, Downs 2-6 0-0 5, Goodson 0-2 1-2 1, Sorenson 0-0 0-0 0, Sacre 3-3 0-0 6, Gray 2-6 2-2 7, Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 1-4 1. Totals 27-59 13-22 70.
Halftime Score: Gonzaga 29, Indiana 24. 3-Pointers: Indiana 7-19 (Dumes 3-8, Story 2-5, Roth 1-4, Taber 1-1, Williams 0-1), Gonzaga 3-16 (Downs 1-2, Pargo 1-2, Gray 1-4, Daye 0-6, Heytvelt 0-1, Bouldin 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 35 (Taber 7), Gonzaga 37 (Downs 9). Assists: Indiana 8 (Taber, 2, Moore, 2, Williams 2), Gonzaga 17 (Pargo 8). Turnovers: Indiana 25, Gonzaga 14. Steals: Indiana 7, Gonzaga 14. Blocks: Indiana 4, Gonzaga 7.
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Hoosiers Compete, But Fall to Zags 70-54
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