BLOOMINGTON – Indiana coach Tom Crean said his team needed the type of game it got Tuesday.
He just didn’t expect the Hoosiers to face this kind of challenge so early.
Tonight was a great learning experience in many ways, Crean said after his team beat LIU Brooklyn 73-72 at Assembly Hall. We don’t have a team of guys that have gone through that. We really didn’t want to have it have to be tonight, but it was.
The Hoosiers (2-0) skirted by the Blackbirds (1-1) after a last-second 3-pointer by point guard Jason Brickman fell short. There were nine ties and eight lead changes.
Thanks to 15 second-half points from senior forward Will Sheehey, a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds from freshman forward Noah Vonleh and 17 points from sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell, IU avoided a disastrous loss and got a valuable wake-up call.
I think it’s a great experience, said Vonleh, who has back-to-back double-doubles. It’s definitely a learning experience just learning how to deal with situations like this and slow things down and just keep getting better.
Poor perimeter shooting and that lack of ball movement put the Hoosiers in a 36-33 hole at halftime.
Sheehey was 0 for 8 from the field in the first half and missed all six of his 3-point attempts. IU was 1 for 16 on 3-pointers in the first half. The Hoosiers, who scored 52 points in the paint in a season-opening win against Chicago State, missed point-blank layups and putback attempts while shooting twice as many 3s as they in their first game.
If IU didn’t correct its course, Crean said, his team would have likely lost by double digits.
There’s no question about it, he said. It was two different games. What was there for us was not what we needed to take. That’s why early on in the game, we shot so many jump shots rather than really diving in to what the game was giving us, and I think it’s one of the biggest reasons we shot the ball so much better as the game went on.
The Hoosiers improved from 27.5 percent shooting in the first half to 51.6 percent in the second. That included going 6 of 10 on 3-pointers and some big contributions from Sheehey.
The senior scored nine points in the first 8:35 of the second half.
Sheehey had six assists and seven rebounds for the Hoosiers and finished with 19 points.
He got into the mix of it, and even when his shots weren’t going in, he’d drive to the lane and hit open guys, Ferrell said. I knew he would knock down shots at the end because he does that every day for us.
IU needed all of them to overcome a sluggish start and an LIU Brooklyn team that was one basket away from an upset.
Fortunately for us, as many mistakes as we made, we had enough things to get us over the top, Crean said. I’m proud of them.