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IU travels to Fort Wayne looking to eliminate distractions


Junior guard James Blackmon Jr. scopes an opening in the UMASS Lowell defence. The Hoosiers beat the River Hawks 100 -78 Wednesday. Victor Grössling and Victor Grossling and Victor Grossling Buy Photos

IU Coach Tom Crean and the Hoosiers are eliminating distractions.

That’s why when the new polls were announced Monday, Crean didn’t look at them. He said polls are nice, but they don’t directly affect how IU plays on the court.

The Hoosiers were ranked third in the nation in the new AP poll and now travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for their only true road game of the non-conference season — a game that will break the attendance record for Fort Wayne’s War Memorial Coliseum.

With the matchup against Fort Wayne on Tuesday being IU’s fourth game of the season, Crean said there’s too much to learn and adjust within the team to focus on what’s happening outside.

“I know I’m not getting distracted,” Crean said, “and my job is to make sure nobody on the team gets distracted with the stuff on the outside. We have a lot to get better at, and it’s really easy to get distracted if you let it.”

With a roster of seven newcomers, including four freshmen, the distractions could come easy. The 3-0 record — 5-0 including exhibitions — could add to the distraction.

No. 3 in the nation could be a distraction.

But Crean said watching film, making adjustments in practice and gaining experience on the court takes precedence.

“We’ve got to take whatever the game is giving us,” Crean said.

That means coming into a game against Fort Wayne — a team that’s scored more than 90 points in three of its four games — the Hoosiers need to be ready for the Summit League’s top-scoring offense.

Fort Wayne senior guard Mo Evans was named the Summit League Player of the Week last week and leads the conference with 23.3 points per game.

The guard beside him in the Fort Wayne backcourt, junior Bryson Scott, transferred to Fort Wayne from Purdue and played in the Fort Wayne area in high school against IU junior guard James Blackmon Jr.

“Me and him go way back, so it’ll be a fun time trying to play against him,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon has been the center of attention throughout the short IU season, as the guard, coming off of an ACL injury in 2015-16, has averaged 23 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

With skepticism and uncertainty in the IU fan base surrounding Blackmon’s play before the season, the junior said it’s his work ethic and verbal leadership that’s pushed him to perform the way he has so far this season.

That work ethic and leadership has also helped two freshmen in the backcourt as well, as guards Curtis Jones and Devonte Green have flourished since seeing the court in exhibition play.

“They ask a lot of questions,” Blackmon said about the freshmen guards. “They really want to get better, and that’s what I like about them. They’re also competitive, so every time they step on the court, they want to get better.”

That’s what the two have continued to do is get better.

Jones hit seven of IU’s 14 overtime points to lead the Hoosiers past Kansas in the season opener and averages eight points per game. Green hasn’t scored many points, just a total of 13 this season, but did see 13 minutes against Liberty and recorded four points, two assists, a block and a massive transition dunk in the game.

The two freshmen with Blackmon, senior Josh Newkirk and junior Rob Johnson will need to score plenty of points in the high-octane matchup with Fort Wayne’s backcourt.

“We’re on the road (Tuesday night), no matter what” Crean said. “That means we need to come out with a real sense of urgency, a real passion to play, which I think we will.”

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