Savannah State fit that bill perfectly.
The Hoosiers (7-1) shot a blistering 55 percent from the floor to throttle the lowly Tigers (1-9) 79-57 on Saturday at Assembly Hall.
“Probably the thing I’m most excited about with this group, is there was really strong resolve coming off a loss,” Crean said. “It’s not necessarily who you play after you’ve come off a tough game. As I say to them all the time, you’re constantly finding out who you are in terms of what happens when adversity hits and in terms of what happens when success comes.”
Junior guard Verdell Jones led all scorers with 18 points in a game in which every Hoosier saw time on the floor. Jones led the team in rebounds as well with eight, but he also led in turnovers for the seventh time this season.
Sophomore forward Christian Watford added 14 points, while the IU bench outscored Savannah State’s 23-8.
Sophomore guard Jordan Hulls was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, all from the 3-point line, to finish with 11 points. It was the third time in the past four games and fourth time this season Hulls has cracked double-digit scoring, but Crean said there’s always room for improvement.
“He’s shooting it well, but I know he can continue to shoot it better,” he said. “We need a little more quantity from him. The quality is high, but we need a little more quantity.”
Defensively, IU held Savannah State to 33 percent shooting, including a 28 percent effort in the second half. Crean said the Hoosiers had 71 deflections to add to their 19 forced turnovers.
“I’ve never been a part of a team as a head coach or assistant that had those kinds of deflections, and that was outstanding,” he said. “That’s always the barometer of active defense.”
Savannah State came into the game with its lone victory against NAIA school Brewton-Parker and averaged a mere 53 points per game, but they had not lost a game by more than 13 points.
Against IU, Savannah State held only a single one-point lead, which it lost less than three minutes into the game and didn’t lead again. The Tigers were led in scoring by forward Joshua Montgomery and guard Preston Blackmon with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Jeremiah Rivers was assigned to defend Blackmon on Saturday, and though the junior guard didn’t attempt a shot or register a steal in his time on the floor, he finished with a plus-21 rating while on the floor, Crean said.
Rivers, a fifth-year senior and most experienced Hoosier, said the team needed to respond the way it did after its first blemish of the 2010 season.
“It’s important, especially for our confidence and just knowing that we kind of let it get away from us the other night against Boston College,” Rivers said. “They’ve got some good players and they’re well coached, but at the same time we were right there and we just kind of faltered on a few things.
“It was good to bounce back and kind of get everything going again and keep that train moving.”
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