LAHAINA, Hawaii – Against an opponent No. 13 IU never intended to play, the Hoosiers (4-1) edged out St. John's (3-2), 83-73, earning a spot in the Maui Invitational's fifth-place game on Wednesday, hardly a consolation prize for a team that hoped to play for a tournament championship.
The Hoosiers bounced back from their four-point loss to Wake Forest to pick up their fourth victory of the season against the Red Storm.
Chris Mullin's St John.'s team, picked to finish last in the Big East by the conference's coaches, cut IU's lead to make it a two-possession game in the second half but the Hoosiers were able to keep their opponents at bay.
"We were a little ruffled today," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "There is no question about that. It's been a short turnaround."
The Hoosiers' work on Monday didn't end with their loss to the Deacons. IU's players didn't go back to their hotel rooms to play Call of Duty or NBA 2k, Crean said.
There were hard feelings to address, film to watch and a ballroom at the Hyatt at the team's disposal that can be transformed into something close to a full court.
The team's film session ran so long that IU didn't make its scheduled gym time for a late practice. The tune-up wasn’t about Xs and Os, or schemes, Crean said. It was about coming out with an edge against St. John’s.
"We needed to get some points across," Crean said. "The level of detail, the level of awareness, the level of effort and hustle yesterday wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be. So that needed to be addressed and it needed to be seen.
"None of us did a good enough job yesterday."
Crean sent a message to his team by changing 60 percent of the team's starting lineup from Monday to Tuesday.
Guards Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft, as well as junior Collin Hartman, earned the start as James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams and Max Bielfeldt were sent to the bench.
"We need to change the dynamic based on the way the game was yesterday," Crean said. "I thought Yogi (Ferrell) and Rob did a fantastic job of getting the teams centered early and Thomas (Bryant) did a great job of getting the team anchored."
The Hoosiers' starters built up a six-point lead that later grew to 17 late in the first half. Bryant carried IU offensively in the first half with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting as the Hoosiers made a concerted effort to pound the ball in the paint. He finished with 19 points, second only to Ferrell's game-high 22 points.
"We were upset with the loss yesterday, but we looked at this as another opportunity for us to go out and show everybody what we're made of, and I felt like we did that today," Ferrell said. "We showed a lot of toughness.”
After getting outrebounded and outscored in the paint against Wake Forest, IU won both statistical battles against St. John’s. The Hoosiers led from start to finish, shooting 57 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range in the process.
The Red Storm put a brief scare in the Hoosiers but IU’s victory was never truly in jeopardy.
St. John’s went on a 10-0 run that spanned both halves and the Red Storm scored 10 of the first 13 points of the second half. A pair of free throws from St. John’s Ron Mvouika’s free throws cut IU’s lead to 45-41.
But the Hoosiers responded with a 7-0 run from Ferrell and Bielfeldt, and neutralized St. John’s second-half attempts at a comeback bid.
“I thought we played very hard and competitive,” Crean said. “We had a different level of urgency today than we did yesterday.”
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