LAHAINA, Hawaii — Down by a basket, No. 13 IU had 3.2 seconds to go 94 feet down the court.
The Hoosiers came up short.
After Wake Forest freshman guard Bryant Crawford scored the second of his two go-ahead layups in the final minute, IU Coach Tom Crean called back-to-back timeouts to set up the Hoosiers’ final play.
Junior forward Collin Hartman was supposed to throw the ball to the opposite free throw line to senior forward Max Bielfeldt, who would find a teammate cutting toward the basket. But the ball was deflected and, after a couple more free throws, No. 13 IU lost to unranked Wake Forest 82-78 Monday in the first round of the Maui Invitational.
“They threw it up and had a lot of hands in there for that long pass, and it just didn’t quite work out as we wanted it to,” Bielfeldt said.
IU Coach Tom Crean said Hartman didn’t wait for a secondary option after Bielfeldt. IU (3-1) was looking for a man-to-man defense but Wake Forest (3-1) used a zone defense. Hartman had to throw a desperate pass.
There was a chance IU would face Kansas, a preseaon top-five team, in the finals of the Maui Invitiational, but instead, IU will play in the loser’s half of the tournament for the rest of the team’s time in Maui.
“It obviously wasn’t something we planned for,” Bielfeldt said. “We were hoping to go all the way.”
After IU’s players were done with their post-game press conference, Crean approached the door to the media room then turned around and walked away. After a short delay, he returned, took the podium and stood for his entire press conference.
The moderator opened the session by asking Crean for his thoughts on the loss.
“Wake Forest deserved to win because they played a better game for a longer period of time,” Crean said. “It’s hard to beat anybody when you play 15, 16 solid minutes, and that’s what we did.”
IU was in the driver’s seat midway through the second half. Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. scored five consecutive points — his only points of the game — to start a 9-0 run that included two assists, a steal and a layup from junior Troy Williams. The run fueled the Hoosiers’ largest lead of the game, 72-63, with 7:34 left in the game.
Wake Forest responded immediately and ended the game on a 19-6 run. Senior guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell’s layup with 2:54 remaining was IU’s last made field goal. The Hoosiers only attempted three shots after Ferrell’s basket.
Outside of IU’s 16 minutes of strong play, Wake Forest set the tone of the game.
The Demon Deacons had a plus-13 rebounding advantage and scored 52 points in the paint.
“It’s not about the statistics,” Crean said. “It’s about the effort statistics and the hustle statistics.”
He said he was disappointed in some of his players’ efforts and toughness but only once did he call out a player by name. Williams can’t play 36 minutes and not grab an offensive rebound, Crean said.
Rebounding and interior defense were both consistent issues for IU on Monday.
Wake Forest’s 6-foot-10 forward Konstantinos Mitoglou tore through IU in the first half and Thomas shouldered the Demon Deacons’ scoring load after halftime. Mitoglou scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half, including a pair of threes.
“He’s the true definition of a stretch four,” Wake Forest Coach Danny Manning said. “He carried us in the first half.”
Thomas scored a game-high 21 points as IU continued to let Thomas go to his dominant left side, Crean said. He said his team allowed Crawford too much room to penetrate on defense, while IU committed costly turnovers and forced quick shots on offense.
But Crean shared responsibility with his players for IU’s opening round loss.
“We’re not going to beat anybody with 16 good minutes, especially when you come to Maui,” Crean said. “So we’ve got to turn around and get ready here in a hurry.”
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