Hours after falling out of both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches polls, IU took its home floor to defeat Alcorn State, 112-70.
The victory followed multiple post-Maui film sessions and four practices over the weekend.
“It all starts in practice,” junior forward Troy Williams said. “We came out here and played as we practiced, so that’s all we’re taking to the next game.”
A date with the Braves was just what the doctor ordered before the Hoosiers’ ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup at No. 7 Duke on Wednesday.
“It wouldn’t matter if we’re playing Duke on Wednesday, you want to play a game,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “Especially a game of Duke’s magnitude, you want to try to play another game because the time change and things like that hit everybody differently.”
The five-hour time change didn’t affect the team’s shooting Monday night. The Hoosiers shot 67 percent from the field, 58 percent from three point range and 76 percent from the free throw line.
Ten of the 13 Hoosiers who played scored, led by sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr.’s career-high 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, the most points scored by an IU player in the Crean era.
“I feel like my teammates were finding me every time I was open,” Blackmon Jr. said.
The sophomore scored eight consecutive points as IU started the game on a 12-0 run. The Hoosiers scored 53 points before halftime, a mark Alcorn State didn’t reach until there was 7:42 left in the game.
There’s only so much to be learned about IU in a game against one of the 10 least efficient teams in the country.
IU’s ever-potent offense exploded for a season-high in points but also experienced flashes of its fatal flaws — turnovers, interior defense and rebounding — all of which IU improved upon in the second half.
In the first half, IU committed eight turnovers and the Braves out-rebounded the Hoosiers 17-14. The Hoosiers also allowed the Braves to score 10 more points than their season average, playing the second-least efficient defense of any of Alcorn State’s six opponents this season.
Alcorn State’s Tyrel Hunt trimmed IU’s lead to nine with a layup with 7:54 to play in the first half, bringing out a light chorus of boos from the crowd, but Blackmon Jr. quickly answered on the other end with a 3-pointer.
Alcorn State never trailed by fewer than 12 points the rest of the game as IU’s lead climbed to 47 late in the second half.
“I thought these guys tonight really responded in a very positive way,” Crean said. “We hit a lot of good marks in the sense of defensively, second half, cutting the offensive rebounds down to three.”