Tom Crean knew his team had to do a handful of things to give itself a chance in its O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off opener against Ole Miss.
Turnovers, missed free throws, and foul trouble weren't particularly high on his list.
Indiana committed 21 turnovers, missed 13 of 25 free throws, and saw both Jeremiah Rivers and Christian Watford land in foul trouble, and that was far too much for the Hoosiers to overcome as they fell 89-71.
"The bottom line with us is we made too many mistakes to win," said Crean.
Indiana drops to 2-1 and will play the loser of the Boston-Kansas State match-up on Friday. Ole Miss improved to 3-0 and will square off with the winner of that same match-up.
After posting relatively easy wins over Howard and USC-Upstate in the season's first two contests, Indiana had problems dealing with Ole Miss' fits athleticism defensively and their ability to dissect the Hoosiers' 2-3 zone on offense. Rebel forward Murphy Holloway found himself on the receiving end of a slew of interior passes in the second half and led Ole Miss with 26 points, while guard Chris Warren added 16 points.
Indiana, meanwhile, was led by Maurice Creek, who finished with 18 points. Verdell Jones added 17, while Jeremiah Rivers was a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor and added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Rivers did pick up his fourth foul just 2 ½ minutes into the second half and was forced to the bench for nearly eight minutes, helping Ole Miss expand a seven-point lead to 15 before he returned. But even with the foul trouble, it was still a marked improvement from the opening two games when Rivers missed all but two of his 12 field goal attempts and averaged only four points. Rivers consistently beat Ole Miss' guards off the dribble and was able to either finish or find open teammates for layups.
"He's such a blur," Crean said. "He's very hard to keep in front of anybody and he's getting better at reading the game. I was really happy with how he shot the ball, but more than anything I was happy about the seven rebounds. We need that from him."
While Indiana got solid efforts from Creek, Rivers and Jones, two of Indiana's top scorers in the opening two games – Christian Watford and Derek Elston – struggled, combining for just eight points. Watford finished 2-of-10 from the field and had five, while Elston made only 1-of-5 and had three. Elston wasn't the only Hoosier reserve to struggle, as Indiana got only nine points from its bench.
"Now (Watford and Elston) realize these guys are playing for real," Crean said. "If anything, they're getting even more attention. They have to respond to that. That's part of the maturing process."
Despite that duos struggles and the mistakes, Indiana battled. Creek scored seven points and Rivers six to help Indiana open a 20-11 lead with just six minutes gone. Ole Miss answered with a 13-0 run to reclaim the lead, and extended it to 16 with four minutes left in the half. Indiana countered with nine straight of its own to cut the margin to seven before a Terrance Henry tip-in gave Ole Mis a 45-36 lead at intermission.
At the start of the second half, a Creek baseline floater followed by a Rivers coast-to-coast drive and layup cut the margin to five and prompted an Ole Miss timeout. That was as close as Indiana would get, as it was unable to overcome the turnovers, missed free throws and play of Holloway and Warren in the second half. Holloway scored 18 of his game-high 26 in the second half, including three straight layups after Indiana had cut the lead to eight, 69-61, with five minutes remaining. Warren, meanwhile, added 13 of his 16 after intermission.
Crean was disappointed in some of the mistakes his team made, but he was also impressed with what he saw from an Ole Miss team that went 16-15 a year ago.
"That's a team on a mission right there…they've got a chip on their shoulder," Crean said. "They've got the bodies, the athleticism, the deepness, the shooting, and the maturity to not get rattled when they get down. We don't have that yet."
Pritchard 3-6 2-5 8, Watford 2-10 1-3 5, Rivers 6-6 2-6 14, Creek 7-14 2-3 18, Jones 8-16 1-2 17, Dumes 1-6 2-2 5, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Capobianco 0-2 0-0 0, Elston 1-5 1-2 3, Hulls 0-2 1-2 1, Muniru 0-0 0-0 -0. Totals 28-67 12-25 71.
OLE MISS 89
Holloway 12-18 2-3 26, Cranston 1-1 1-1 3, Polynice 4-8 2-2 10, Warren 6-13 1-3 16, White 4-11 0-2 9, Cantinol 0-0 0-0 0, Gaskins 205 3-3 8, Graham 3-8 4-5 10, Henry 1-2 0-0 2, Bogan 0-0 0-0 0, Buckner 2-4 1-2 5, Riley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-70 14-22 89.
3-Pointers: Indiana 3-15 (Creek 2-6, Dumes 1-4, Watford 0-2, Hulls 0-1 Jones 0-2), Ole Miss 5-17 (Warren 3-7, White 1-3, Gaskins 1-3, Polynice 0-1, Graham 0-2, Henry 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 32 (Pritchard 6), Ole Miss 43 (Buckner 9). Assists: Indiana 13 (Rivers 4), Ole Miss 14 (Polynice 7). Turnovers: Indiana 21, Ole Miss 19. Blocks: Indiana 2 (Jones, Muniru), Ole Miss 12 (Henry 3, Buckner 3, Cranston 2, Polynice 2, White 1, Riley 1). Steals: Indiana 14, Ole Miss 10.
Hoosiers Can't Overcome Mistakes, Ole Miss
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