BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When Indiana tipped off its regular-season home opener, it looked like the sixth-ranked Hoosiers returned from Honolulu empty-handed.
Just five days removed from defeating then-No. 3 Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic, Indiana started Wednesday night’s game flat on offense, slow on defense, and for much of the first 10 minutes, played mediocre basketball. The Hoosiers looked tired, searching for the momentum that carried them past Kansas.
"When you’re coming off a great win like we had, you think the (next) game is going to be easier, but it’s not," Indiana coach Tom Crean said, adding that it felt like his team hit a wall.
James Blackmon Jr. got Indiana (2-0) over that wall. Blackmon Jr. made five 3-pointers, scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 100-78 victory over UMass Lowell.
The River Hawks led three times during the first 10 minutes and by as many as five points. But with 8:24 remaining, Indiana found its niche behind the savvy scoring of Blackmon, who had 20 points in the first half.
Indiana outscored UMass Lowell (1-2) 32-15 during the final 8 minutes of the first half. The Hoosiers went into halftime having shot 60 percent from the field (21 of 35). Once Indiana returned true to form, resembling the same team that kicked off the season with a big win in Hawaii, the Hoosiers dominated for the remainder of the game. The Hoosiers had assists on 23 field goals.
Big men OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant contributed to Indiana’s onslaught. Anunoby scored 15 points and Bryant added nine and the two combined for nine rebounds. The Hoosiers outrebounded UMass Lowell 46-24. Of the 46 rebounds, 19 were on the offensive end, leading to 15 second-chance points.
Crean praised his squad for establishing physicality and speed, rather than attempting to establish its jump shots or an offensive presence. And in doing so, it led to a defensive effort that contributed largely to the turning point of the game. Robert Johnson echoed his coach’s sentiments.
"I think it all starts on defense," Johnson said. "Once we get stops, defensive rebounds, we can get out in transition and play."
Johnson scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and had five assists for Indiana. The Hoosiers led by as many as 29 points halfway through the second half.
Jahad Thomas finished with 16 points and Tyler Livingston had 14 for the River Hawks.
Despite the 22-point loss, UMass Lowell coach Pat Duquette found very little to be disappointed about.
"I don’t think we were too affected by the atmosphere. We don’t play in arenas like this. We don’t play in front of a crowd like this. I was happy that our guys didn’t get distracted by that and stuck to the game plan," Duquette said. "For us to score 78 points against a really talented Indiana team on their home court, that’s a great sign. I think they are a legitimate top five team."
Indiana will have three more games to build on the big win over Kansas. The Hoosiers’ next three games are against mid-majors before they host North Carolina on Nov. 30. The Hoosiers’ other notable non-conference game comes on Dec. 17 when they face Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse before kicking off Big Ten Conference play against Nebraska on Dec. 28. Indiana’s final non-conference game is a showdown with No. 12 Louisville at Bankers Life on New Year’s Eve.
With Indiana’s 103-99 win over Kansas and its 100-78 beatdown of UMass Lowell, the Hoosiers scored 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2005. Wednesday’s game marked the first time Indiana opened the season with back-to-back games with at least 100 points since 1992-93.
With 8:24 to play in the first half, Indiana opened a 14-2 run that would give the Hoosiers a comfortable halftime lead. And with 17 minutes left in the second half, the Hoosiers ignited an 18-2 run that ultimately put the game out of reach.