Photo courtesy of IU Athletics -Â
reat moments are born from great opportunities, and last night Indiana (7-0) took full-advantage of the opportunity to prove they are starting to climb the ladder.
After North Carolina State (5-2) went on a 7-1 run to extinguish the Hoosiers hot start, that opportunity seemed to be fading away ad nauseam.
Tom Crean brought some Advil to Raleigh, however, and IU proved resilient, as Hoosier fans did not go to sleep Wednesday night with another post-game headache.
Jordan Hulls, who set the tone early for the Hoosiers, led all players in scoring with 20 points. But it was not his hot start that helped IU as much as his late game heroics.
Led by Lorenzo Brown’s 19 points, a late NC State 5-0 run cut the Hoosier lead to 76-75 with 2:12 to play. It was at that moment Hullsâ€™ took matters into his own hands, taking the ball and crossing left, and uncharacteristically pulling up for three.
From there the route was on as IU pulled away in the closing minutes for its first true road victory in the Tom Crean era, beating NC State 86-75.
“All Hoosier fans should feel really, really good and feel a part of this one because they have stayed with us as we tried to get ourselves to the point where we can come and win a game like this on the road,” Crean said.
“Now we’ve done it and I wish we could just give everyone a big hug and tell them thank you and we’ll see them Sunday.”
For the first time since Creanâ€™s tenure in Bloomington began, IU fans have something to feel really good about after a game.
Feel really good about the Hoosierâ€™s perfect record; the teams first 7-0 start since 2002.
Feel really good about the Hoosierâ€™s first victory on the road after trailing at halftime since 2008.
Feel really good about the Hoosiers being the most accurate shooting team in the Big Ten.
Feel really good about the courage and camaraderie of which this young Hoosier team played with in the face of adversity on the road.
Feel really good about Indiana basketball again.
Last night Cody Zeller was feeling really good. His 19 points and seven rebounds allowed the Hoosiers to battle possession-for-possession with NC State, an element of basketball weâ€™ve not seen in awhile.
Junior forward Christian Watford was also feeling really good, who has put his early season struggles to rest, tallying 16 points and nine rebounds for the Hoosiers.
When IU needed a basket in the second half, it was Watford or Zeller who answered the call, scoring 13 of 15 points late, capped off by a Watford three-pointer which gave the Hoosiers a 71-68 lead that would not be relinquished.
After a Victor Oladipo reverse dunk, what seemed to be lost after the Hoosierâ€™s early lead turned into a six point deficit was firmly secured.
It was the biggest deficit we faced all game, but I felt good,â€ Crean said. â€œWe finally looked like how we practiced.
IUâ€™s first half lead largely disappeared because of their inability to rebound. The Hoosiers were dominated 22-13 on the boards, giving the Wolfpack several second chance opportunities.
But IU locked in and focused during the second half, coming back to outrebound NC State by six.
“This team – they lock in,” Crean said. “They are concentrating, they are focusing and they adjust. Jordan was a key part of that. There’s no one part of the game that you can look at and say, `okay if we just do this, we’ll be fine.’â€
The Hoosiers shot 48 percent (30-62) from the field and 54 percent (7-13) from 3. They also shot 82 percent (19-23) from the free-throw line.
While offensively outstanding, it was the Hoosiers second half defense that put them in position to win the game.
IU held NC State to 42 percent (28-66) shooting and just 30 percent (3-10) from 3, while scoring 23 points off 15 turnovers.
Itâ€™s tough to lose when you play great defense, itâ€™s near impossible to lose when you play it for all 40 minutes, which is one thing the Hoosiers are working to improve.
â€œYou have to do all of it. And tonight through 40 minutes, we didn’t do all of it through all 40, but we did all of it throughout the 40. When it was time to put it away, we put it all together,â€ Crean said.
Last nightâ€™s ACC/Big Ten Challenge victory was the first for the Hoosiers since 2007, giving them a 4-7 all-time record in the challenge.
IU will host Stenson (3-3) at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at Assembly Hall, giving them one last opportunity to clean up before next weekâ€™s primetime showdown with No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall.