Johnson leads Hoosiers past Texas Southern 83-64
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana coach Tom Crean has a simple plan for his young team: Focus on the little things, and everything else will fall into place.
So far, it’s worked out well.
Robert Johnson scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half Monday night, and fellow freshman, James Blackmon Jr., scored 17 of his 19 in the second half to lead the Hoosiers past Texas Southern 83-64.
”We need to do the simple things well,” Crean said. ”Rob and James are two kids that are really capable of doing the simple things well.”
The goal now is to let his new backcourt combination do what it does best – score.
Indiana (2-0) followed Friday night’s 66 percent shooting spree by knocking down 57.1 percent from the field and 10 of 15 from 3-point range against the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champs.
But Johnson and Blackmon aren’t just scoring. Johnson had five rebounds and six assists, prompting Crean to admit he didn’t even want to take out his new guard. Blackmon also had five rebounds.
Together they turned Mike Davis’ return to Assembly Hall into a rout.
Tonnie Collier led the Tigers (0-2) with 16 points and Deverell Biggs had 14, not quite enough against the Hoosiers’ new shooting stars.
”Indiana can really shoot the basketball, they really test you defensively,” said Davis, who became the first ex-Hoosiers coach to face his old team in Bloomington.
Indiana trailed only twice, 4-3 and 8-6, and started pulling away midway through the first half. After the Tigers closed to 20-18, Indiana used a 21-4 run to open up a 41-22 lead. Texas Southern closed the deficit to 44-29 at halftime and 54-44 with 14:32 left in the game.
But Blackmon answered with back-to-back 3s and the Tigers couldn’t get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
”We’re asking a lot of them,” Crean said of the two freshmen.
Kevin ”Yogi” Ferrell finished with 20 points and seven assists, and Hanner Mosquera-Perea had 12 points, five rebounds and five blocks for the Hoosiers. Johnson also had six assists in his second college game.
Texas Southern: Davis, the last coach to lead the Hoosiers to a Final Four, received a rousing ovation from the crowd during introductions. That was in stark contrast to the complaints coming from fans during his final season in Bloomington, 2005-06. Davis announced his resignation toward the end of that season, saying in part Indiana needed a unified fan base. ”It was really nice to see him get that reception,” Crean said. Davis called it a ”no-brainer” when he was asked about returning to Assembly Hall.
Indiana: Three nights after finishing with the most points during Crean’s tenure, the Hoosiers nearly hit another milestone. This time it was on the defensive end. Indiana had nine blocks. The highest single-game total during the Crean era was 13 against Chicago State in 2013.
Texas Southern visits Tennessee on Thursday.
Indiana hosts No. 22 SMU and former Pacers coach Larry Brown on Thursday.
Crean pushes his plyers to get to the free throw line. To take advantage, though, the Hoosiers must convert at a better rate. Through two games, Indiana is shooting just 67.9 percent from the line.
Indiana has dominated its first two games despite being without four players. Sophomores Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams and freshman Emmit Holt served the fourth and final game of Crean’s suspension Monday. All three are expected to be reinstated just in time for the SMU game. Another sophomore, Devin Davis, is still recovering from a serious head injury sustained in a car accident. It’s unclear when Davis will return. Crean says practice will determine how much playing time the three get Thursday night.