BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Tom Crean knew there was one thing No. 13 Indiana couldn’t have Sunday — a letdown.
So with the fourth game of the week looming, the Hoosiers coach made some changes. He installed some new plays, urged players to fight through the fatigue and encouraged them to have some win.
Winning made it even better. Robert Johnson had and seven rebounds and De’Ron Davis scored 14 points to lead the Hoosiers past Southeast Missouri State for an 83-55 victory.
"In a week like this where you have these numerous games, it’s real easy to go vanilla with the game plan," Crean said. "I don’t believe in that. So we put a couple of things in yesterday and this morning that were a little different. It makes them be a little more aware and alert."
Eventually, Crean’s strategy worked well enough to produce the Hoosiers’ fourth straight win, all this week.
But whether it was the rugged stretch, the lack of a big-time opponent, the absence of high-energy forward OG Anunoby (ankle) or something else, Indiana (7-1) wasn’t itself. Instead of pushing the tempo with quick passes early, the offense bogged down and repeatedly went deep into the shot clock. The result: 18 turnovers and 7 of 20 on 3-pointers.
"I think it was pretty tough, four games in eight days or whatever it was," Johnson said. "I think it was a really big jump for our young guys, and I thought it was a good week for us."
Denzel Mahoney led Southeast Missouri State (4-4) with 16 points, and Antonius Cleveland had 13.
Indiana took advantage of Southeast Missouri State’s early shooting struggles to jump to a 17-2 lead. After the Redhawks closed to 26-21 late in the half, Indiana closed it on a 13-5 run then opened the second half on an 11-4 spurt to make it 50-30 with 15:51 to play.
The Redhawks never seriously challenged again.
Southeast Missouri State shot a season-low 31.3 percent from the field, went more than 8 minutes in the second half without a basket and finished with its lowest point total this season.
"I think what happens when a team like Southeast Missouri State plays a ranked team that’s really good, like Indiana, is that guys think they have to come in and make extraordinary plays and really what you need to do is just make simple plays," Redhawks coach Rick Ray said. "Where you need to be extraordinary is on the defensive end."
Southeast Missouri State: The Redhawks are 0-9 against Big Ten teams and 0-13 against ranked teams. This loss, coupled with Illinois’ 81-62 victory on Nov. 11, demonstrates how far they must go to really compete with college basketball’s big boys.
Indiana: Sure, this win was expected long before the Hoosiers stepped on the floor Sunday. But after the stumble in Fort Wayne and a sluggish first half, Indiana proved it can overcome fatigue and adversity and still win. Expect the Hoosiers to start climbing in the rankings again this week.
Crean drew laughter in the first half when he decided to chest bump preseason All-American center Thomas Bryant after he tried to run down a ball. Bryant took only two shots from the field, making one, but had 10 rebound, seven points, three assists and four blocks. And Crean had a reason for the chest bump.
"I would say Juwan (Morgan) and Thomas and Robert, they have been on point and on a mission since the middle of the week a week ago to take the lead," Crean said. "So he (Bryant) just needed a reminder that it’s OK to have some fun."
Southeast Missouri State: The Redhawks return home to take on a more manageable opponent Wednesday, in-state rival Missouri State.
Indiana: The Hoosiers get a well-deserved break before suiting up Saturday when they host Houston Baptist.