Shocking loss sends No. 3 Indiana home looking for answers
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) Indiana coach Tom Crean walked into his postgame news conference and got right to the point.
The third-ranked Hoosiers were outplayed Tuesday night.
The quick, precise ball movement was missing. The energy Indiana needed to handle a preseason conference favorite, on its home court, also was absent. And the stunning result was the biggest upset of this young college basketball season: IPFW 71, Indiana 68.
''The bottom line is they executed better than we did, and that's disappointing to me,'' Crean said. ''They passed the ball faster and better than we did.''
For most of the night, the Hoosiers (3-1) hardly resembled the intense, scrappy team that opened the season by toppling then-No. 3 Kansas in overtime.
Instead, they were trying to catch up, trying to get in sync, trying to match wits with a gritty opponent that was determined to put itself on the national map against an in-state power.
The Mastodons, who moved up from Division II to Division I in 2001-02, had lost all nine previous games against ranked foes and hadn't even played a Top 25 opponent in almost four years.
But none of that mattered Tuesday when they walked into Memorial Coliseum and saw their home court surrounded by a sea of Indiana cream-and-crimson attire.
''They'll be talking about Indiana coming to Fort Wayne for the next 50 years,'' Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne coach Jon Coffman said . ''I really appreciate `em just coming.''
The fact that Crean even scheduled this game might have been as shocking as the result.
Indiana agreed to play at IPFW only if it could sell the bulk of the tickets to its own fans, creating a sort of home-court environment almost 200 miles from campus on a holiday week.
Coffman was thrilled that Crean just gave his team the chance.
''We had a win even before the game started,'' Coffman said. ''I have to give Coach Crean credit because he did something that a lot of big schools won't do any more – play a mid-major team on the road. Those sort of moves are what make college basketball great because they make it possible that on any given night miracles can happen.''
Of course, no Power Five coach ever anticipates being on the wrong end of those miracles – even when the move is designed to help a young team find its footing in a rare non-conference road game.
But with starting forward OG Anunoby under the weather, James Blackmon Jr. having an off-shooting night and an IPFW team determined to come up with the biggest win in school history, the Mastodons (3-2) wouldn't be denied.
Thomas Bryant had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Indiana. Robert Johnson scored 16, but the Hoosiers were off just enough that it wound up costing them.
Afterward, Crean took the blame for most of the errors and promised to get those mistakes cleaned up – little solace on a night like this.
''We were trying to take what the game was giving us,'' Crean said. ''There were times we had it in the post and we just missed. The ball didn't move from side to side as fast as we needed it to.''
And now, instead of heading home trying to produce their first 5-0 start since 2013-14, Crean and his players will have to rebound from one of the most stunning losses in school history by figuring out what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn't happen again.
''We have nobody on this team that's ever been responsible for anyone else, who can take the bull by the horns and lead guys through the thick and thin of it,'' Crean said.
''We were not as locked into the personnel and the block outs as we needed to be, and if we make our free throws, it's a different result. But we didn't and they earned it.''
IPFW trailed for just 90 seconds and won despite making only two baskets over the final 14 1/2 minutes.
Bryson Scott scored 18 points and John Konchar made the go-ahead free throw with 1:19 left in overtime for IPFW. DeAngelo Stewart hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to make it a three-point lead, and Konchar picked off the ensuing inbounds pass to seal the upset.
Konchar finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
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