Jet lag could be as tough an opponent for No. 6 Indiana as UMass-Lowell on Wednesday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.
The Hoosiers opened their season in rousing fashion Friday night, pulling out a 103-99 overtime win over then-No. 3 Kansas at the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu. Five days and six time zones later, they get back on the court against a River Hawks team off to a 1-1 start in their final transition season in Division I.
Indiana’s resolve was as impressive as its compete level against Kansas, which is saying something. It lost three players to fouls, including sophomore center Thomas Bryant, and trailed by nine points early in the second half before reeling in the Jayhawks and finally capturing the victory.
"For us to find a way to win against a team like that and as good as they are and dealing with all the different kind of lineup changes we had to have … we try to be a position-less team as much as possible," Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said.
Indiana got four 3-pointers and 26 points from junior guard James Blackmon Jr., playing his first game since an ACL tear ended his 2015-16 season after 13 games. Bryant added a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double despite dealing with leg cramps while freshman Curtis Jones came off the bench for three 3-pointers and 15 points.
Jones played beyond his years in his 16 minutes, displaying the cool of an older player when he drained a step-back jumper in overtime.
"I think what that says is that the stage doesn’t matter to him," Crean said. "I think that’s what is really important. At one point, we had three freshmen in there in overtime and they all contributed."
The Hoosiers also were impressive in the areas of first-shot defense and rebounding, holding the Jayhawks to 43.7 percent shooting from the field and possessing a 50-39 advantage on the glass. They grabbed 40 percent of available offensive rebounds and 72.7 percent of the available defensive caroms.
UMass-Lowell has been pretty respectable in its first two games, falling 90-76 Friday at Massachusetts and then thumping Wagner 87-76 on Monday night. That’s the same Wagner team which stunned then-ranked Connecticut on Friday night in its season opener.
Junior Matt Harris is leading the River Hawks through two games at 17 points per game, going 13-for-13 at the foul line Monday night to account for most of his 18 points. Sophomore Isaac White tallied a career-high 20 points, converting all 10 of his free throws.
Despite getting dominated on the glass 45-23, UMass-Lowell led almost the entire game, keeping Wagner at arm’s length by sinking 32 of 36 foul shots.
"It was a really good win for our program," River Hawks coach Pat Duquette said. "Wagner is a very good team that just knocked off UConn and won 23 games last year. Overall, I thought a lot of guys contributed and we had a very balanced attack."
This is the first of four straight games for Indiana as part of the Indiana Classic, which stretches out over 11 days. It will also host Liberty and Mississippi Valley State while traveling to Fort Wayne. UMass-Lowell will also play at Fort Wayne while meeting Liberty and Mississippi Valley State in Lynchburg, Va.