WASHINGTON, D.C. — The survival instinct kicked in for IU.
Needing a win to advance in the Big Ten Tournament, IU brought back the potential it had shown earlier this season when it beat Kansas and North Carolina.
On the back of a dominant second half, IU defeated Iowa 95-73 at the Verizon Center, and scored the second-most points ever by a team in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We know we can be a dangerous team when we’re clicking like that,” junior guard James Blackmon Jr. said. “We’re all playing together.”
Blackmon was the player Iowa had to fear the most in the second half. He unleashed an inferno on the Hawkeyes and scored 18 points and made all five of his shots. He finished with 23 points.
“I thought what James did better in the second half even than the first was he cut,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “He was getting from one side to the other.”
His shot was key for the rest of the Hoosiers’ offense.
“It helps a lot because he’s a big part of our team,” freshman forward Curtis Jones said. “We know what he’s capable of.”
After losing its halftime lead early in the second half, IU roared ahead on the back of an offense that shot 67.9 percent from the field and 75 percent from 3 in the second half.
The offense showed the tantalizing potential that had eluded IU for so much of the season.
“We’re making shots that we have at times missed this year,” Crean said. “But it was never a question that we were not a good shooting team. It’s a matter of making sure that the ball is moving.”
The offense flowed from strong defense.
Crean said assistant coach Rob Judson’s idea to press early in the second half helped spark the strong defensive effort.
Jones said the biggest change from their defense was the Hoosiers had a significant amount of communication on that end of the floor.
Clicking on both ends, IU went on a 20-5 run in the second half to race past Iowa. Once the Hoosiers got revved up, they were in complete control of the game.
The victory was Crean’s first as the lower-seeded team in the Big Ten Tournament and came after a tumultuous regular season.
Crean said this team has forged something as a product of many different things this season, which started with a win against Kansas and followed with great wins and tough losses.
IU has picked up some momentum in recent weeks and won three out of four games, but the Hoosiers haven’t won two consecutive games in the Big Ten tournament since 2003.
“We’ve just been getting after it, believing, having faith,” Jones said. “That’s just the biggest thing for us — having faith and just keeping going after it every day.”
The calendar has turned to March, and IU has gained a new mentality while it regains its early season form. This mentality will be tested Friday against Wisconsin.
“It’s win and advance,” junior guard Josh Newkirk said. “You lose, and you go home, so we definitely got an edge and are playing like it.”
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