Hoosiers ready to flex offensive muscle at Maui Invitational
With a showdown against the reigning national champions drawing closer, Indiana takes its high-powered offense well to the west to face another ACC opponent.
The 14th-ranked Hoosiers look to continue their early season roll at the Maui Invitational, where they draw Wake Forest in Monday’s opening round of the marquee event.
Indiana has lived up to the lofty expectations bestowed upon the program off last season’s NCAA Tournament appearance, averaging 92.0 points and shooting 56.0 percent in three blowout wins. The Hoosiers have scored at least 49 first-half points in each game and been one of the nation’s most dangerous teams from the perimeter, having made 42.7 percent of 3-point attempts.
"I just feel like everyone on our team can bring scoring and shooting," said guard James Blackmon Jr., who averages a team-high 18.7 points. "I don’t think there is one guy on our team that can’t shoot."
Blackmon is shooting 55.0 percent on 3s and sixth man Nick Zeisloft is 9 of 14. Both went 4 of 6 from deep and were two of five Hoosiers in double figures in Thursday’s 86-65 rout of Creighton.
Heralded freshman center Thomas Bryant added 17 points and seven rebounds while providing an interior defensive presence, an area Indiana often lacked last season.
"They’ve got a lot of pieces," Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. "Bryant adds another dimension to them that I don’t think they had last year with his ability to protect the rim."
Indiana’s Dec. 2 matchup at No. 5 Duke figures to be among the highlights of this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and the Hoosiers should be well prepared by a tough Maui field that includes Kansas, Vanderbilt, UCLA and UNLV.
They’ll face either the Commodores or St. John’s on Tuesday after taking on a Demon Deacons team still in the rebuilding stage under second-year coach Danny Manning.
Wake Forest (2-1) went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-19 overall in Manning’s debut and is picked 11th in the conference this season. The Deacons have been starting four underclassmen with senior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, the team’s leading scorer in 2014-15, yet to play due to a broken foot.
That relative inexperience was evident in Wednesday’s 91-82 home loss to Richmond, in which the Spiders scored 27 points off 20 Wake Forest turnovers.
"We gave up far too many baskets," Manning said. "And then when you turn the ball over as many times as we did, that’s hard to overcome."
Wake Forest also struggled at the foul line, making just 19 of 33 attempts to offset a 57.1 field goal percentage.
On the positive side, freshman Bryant Crawford had his second consecutive 21-point effort and is averaging 17.0 points, tied with senior Devin Thomas for the team lead. Thomas has posted double-doubles in all three games and forward Konstantinos Mitoglou has two, helping the Deacons outrebound their opponents by a plus-17.3 margin.
Miller-McIntyre, who averaged 14.5 points and 4.3 assists in 2014-15 to earn honorable mention all-ACC honors, will make the trip to Hawaii along with forward Cornelius Hudson, suspended for the first three games for violating departmental policy. Manning said he does not expect Miller-McIntyre to play.
Wake Forest is aiming for its first win over a ranked team since an 82-72 decision over No. 4 Duke on March 5, 2014. The Deacons were 0-7 against Top 25 opponents last season.