No. 15 Hoosiers cruise past Eastern Illinois 88-49 in opener
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — No. 15 Indiana got off to a perfect start Friday night.
It pushed the tempo, dominated the middle and pulled away — just like coach Tom Crean drew it up.
James Blackmon Jr. scored 17 points and Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell added 13, leading the new-look Hoosiers to an 88-49 victory over Eastern Illinois.
"We started playing more and more downhill, we were on the attack and were able to bring fatigue to the game," Crean said. "I thought our guys were really locked in throughout the night."
The biggest improvement came inside where 6-foot-10 freshman Thomas Bryant put the Hoosiers in complete control. They outrebounded the Panthers 51-17, outscored them 42-20 in the paint and 26-1 on second-chance points.
Bryant had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Not surprisingly, Indiana won its eighth straight season opener under Crean and its 18th in a row overall. The Hoosiers also have won 31 consecutive home openers, the last two by a combined 90 points.
"That’s something we want to do this year, we want to play a little faster, especially on defense with the guy we have in the back now," said reserve guard Robert Johnson, who scored 12 points.
Indiana’s only big mistake came when Bryant drew a technical foul for hanging on the rim with 7:38 left and the Hoosiers holding a 73-35 lead. But Eastern Illinois guard Cornell Johnston missed both free throws.
It was that kind of night for the outmanned and undersized Panthers. A.J. Riley led Eastern Illinois with 13 points, and Trae Anderson had 12.
"We don’t have to play them again," Panthers coach Jay Spoonhour said. "Now, you can pretty much say to everybody, ‘Hey, we’re not going to face anyone that looks quite like that again.’"
The Hoosiers used a 12-3 run to take a 28-16 lead midway through the first half, extended the lead to 49-17 at halftime and pushed the advantage to as much as 42 in the second half.
Bryant wasn’t the only reason Indiana was so dominant inside. The Hoosiers’ top four guards — Ferrell, Blackmon, Johnson and Nick Zeisloft — combined for 18 rebounds.
"Seventy-two percent of our possessions went through the paint and that was something we knew we had to do better from the exhibition games because that creates the drive-and-kick game and that gets the ball moving," Crean said.
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Spoonhour stayed away from the traditional halftime pep talk and instead established some reasonable goals for his players. The speech began with Spoonhour imploring his team not to get beat by 60. Mission accomplished. Then he challenged his team to keep the Hoosiers under 90 points. They did that, too. And after 18 first-half fouls, they committed only seven in the second half.
Indiana wore a patch on the back of its jerseys to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the last undefeated men’s team. Two players from that team, Tom Abernethy and Bobby Wilkerson, were inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame last weekend. All five starters from the 1975-76 national champs and coach Bob Knight are Hall of Famers.
Eastern Illinois: The Panthers have nine newcomers, six of them freshmen, and are picked to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference. … Johnston, the 5-7 starting point guard, finished with five points and two assists. … Eastern Illinois is 0-19 all-time against ranked teams.
Indiana: Bryant became the 12th freshman in Crean’s eight seasons to start on opening night and just missed becoming the fifth with a double-double. … Indiana had a 35-9 edge in bench points.
Eastern Illinois travels to Ball State on Monday.
Indiana hosts Austin Peay on Monday.