Junior guard James Blackmon Jr. is back.
After missing half of last season because of a knee injury, Blackmon played the role of hero for IU on Friday in his regular season return to the court.
Blackmon’s 26 points helped IU knock off No. 3 Kansas 103-99 in overtime in Honolulu.
Late in the game, both teams were plagued by foul trouble as seven different players fouled out and the game became a war of attrition.
Blackmon survived that stretch of play and put IU on his back late in the second half, knocking down difficult shots with ease.
As the clock wound down, he and Kansas’s Frank Mason III — who finished with 30 points — traded scores to give their teams the lead.
Whenever IU’s offense bogged down, Blackmon was always there to rescue the Hoosiers with a miracle shot late in the possession.
IU Coach Tom Crean said he loved Blackmon’s performance and couldn’t talk about him without choking up.
“I’m proud of him,” Crean said. “I’m just proud of him. It’s been a long road to get him back and his dad was here which was great. I’m just proud of him. He’s going to get better and better. He’s got an unbelievable work ethic. He’s made a lot of strides.”
Crean praised Blackmon’s defense late in the game.
Blackmon did most of his damage in the second half, when he scored 19 points. The sharpshooter was deadly from three and shot three of six from downtown in the second half.
Sophomore Thomas Bryant was an unlikely candidate to fire up 3s, but he hit two and lived up to the offseason hype. Bryant notched a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. However, he fouled out and the offensive onus was put on the shoulders of Blackmon.
“I know it’s November, but with every thing that James has been through, it’s a great feeling to watch him have the game that he had,” Crean said.
IU struggled in the first half to establish their offensive flow as the Hoosiers relied heavily on the three point shot. The 3 was the difference -maker for IU as it outscored Kansas by 24 from behind the arc.
However, neither team could really take control of the game. The game was tied 16 times and the lead changed 17 times. Whenever one team would go on a run, the opponent would answer right back.
Kansas opened the second half scoring the first five points to stretch its lead up to nine, which was the largest of the game.
The Hoosiers answered that salvo with a 14-5 run of their own. IU found success early in the second half with strong drives by its guards, especially junior Rob Johnson who had 10 points.
Kansas would go on a 7-0 run, but once again IU answered back with an 8-0 run of its own.
The game would go into overtime after the crunch -time performances of Blackmon and Mason.
The strong efforts of freshman Curtis Jones and De’ron Davis buoyed the Hoosiers in overtime.
It wasn’t a perfect victory for the Hoosiers as they had 18 turnovers and gave up 46 points in the paint, but against a team like Kansas, Crean will take it.
“The great news is for both teams, for all four teams, they’re going to get a lot better,” Crean said. “We’re going to get a lot better. But to get a win like this against a team like that is a huge, huge thing.”
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