Sophomore forward OG Anunoby’s monster slam dunk with fewer than 10 seconds left and IU men’s basketball down three points wasn’t enough to overcome Maryland on Tuesday night.
Anunoby’s slam cut the IU deficit to one point and after two made free throws by Maryland on the other end, junior guard Robert Johnson was able to square up a good look from beyond the arc with the clock winding down.
Johnson’s triple was just off the mark, and although the Hoosiers were wearing the same “Courage” uniforms tonight as they did against Kansas in the season opener, the junior guard couldn’t create some last-second magic and push overtime. The Hoosiers fell to the Terrapins, 75-72, and to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play.
“We wouldn’t trade anything about the shot at the end with Robert, it just didn’t go,” IU Coach Tom Crean said on the IU basketball postgame radio show. “I’m proud of the way they battled, big time and everyone else should be. They’re fighting, this is one tough atmosphere to be in right here, and an incredible atmosphere.”
The guards shined for the Hoosiers on Tuesday night by knocking down multiple big shots when it mattered.
Despite picking up two fouls within the first two minutes of the game and sitting for a seven-minute span in the first half, junior guard James Blackmon Jr. didn’t let the foul troubles get to him. He finished with a game-high 22 points on nine-of-15 shooting and four of eight from 3-point range. The junior guard’s second-half 3-pointer to put the Hoosiers up five with 12 minutes to go was his 1,001st point in his IU career. He became the 50th player in Hoosier men’s basketball history to eclipse 1,000 points.
“He’s playing really well and he did a very good job defensively too,” Crean said about the newest member to the IU 1,000 point club.
The guards picked up the slack on the scoring end, but the Hoosiers started the game shooting six of 23 from the field. They were able to figure out their woes and take the lead with 1:04 left in the first half, but IU entered the break down one point after a buzzer-beating layup from Maryland guard Melo Trimble.
Maryland hassled IU’s big men down low and controlled the paint in the first half, blocking eight Hoosier shots. Even though Anunoby executed a posterizing slam on Maryland’s Damonte Dodd with 10 seconds to go, he missed his first six shots of the game and didn’t make his first bucket until less than nine minutes to go in the contest.
It wasn’t just Anunoby who struggled for IU down low, however. Its four main forwards, sophomores Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan, freshman De’Ron Davis and Anunoby, combined to shoot five for 21 in the game and collected just 17 points.
Not only were the Terrapins locking down on defense in the lane, they were also getting in there on offense and drawing fouls against IU. Maryland was able to get to the free throw line 22 times compared to IU's nine attempts.
The game was closely contested for the entire final 20 minutes. Neither team led by more than five points in the second half.
With IU up two points and fewer than two minutes to play, Terrapin guard Kevin Huerter hit a 3-pointer to take the lead and put Maryland up one. IU never overcame that deficit and lost its sixth game of the year.
Crean said the Hoosiers prepared for Huerter and Maryland much like they did against Wisconsin with Huerter not being the big name but still being able to knock down big shots.
“The way we prepared it was much like Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes gets a lot of the attention, but Ethan Happ is the key,” Crean said. “In this game Melo Trimble gets a lot of the attention and deservedly so but Kevin Huerter is the guy that does so many things and he threw a dagger on us.”
Through the first four games of the conference season, the Hoosiers have now lost as many games as they did during all of last year’s regular season Big Ten title run. IU has a chance to bounce back Sunday against Rutgers, but has a long way before it can call itself a legitimate contenders in the Big Ten.
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