Hot Offense Lifts Hoosiers Over UNC Wilmington, 95-71
Nov. 20, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana can win with defense, too.
On a night when Eric Gordon scored 30 points and five Hoosiers finished in double figures, it was a relentless defensive effort that overshadowed everything and allowed No. 8 Indiana to rout North Carolina-Wilmington 95-71 in the second round of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
"I thought for about a 25-minute stretch, that's the best we've played all year," coach Kelvin Sampson said Tuesday night. "We were getting so much offense out of our defense tonight, and that's not something we did earlier in the year."
For the Hoosiers (3-0), it was actually a well-rounded night.
They shot 60.4 percent from the field, the highest percentage since Sampson took over as coach last year. They forced 26 turnovers and allowed UNCW to shoot only 44.4 percent after it started by making seven of its first nine shots.
Of course, the Hoosiers had no shortage of scorers, either.
Gordon was his usual self, connecting on 8-of-12 shots and making 12-of-13 free throws, and when he started going to the basket it opened things up for his teammates.
"Once we decided to start playing, we turned the game around," said Bassett, who was limited in the second half with cramps. "I think there's more of an offensive swagger to this team and we need more of a defensive swagger."
Indiana flirted with the 100-point mark for the third straight game and produced its 20th consecutive regular-season home win, while UNCW was left searching for answers.
The Seahawks were led by Todd Hendley with 20 points and Chad Tomko with 17 but couldn't keep up with Indiana's scorers, depth or defensive pressure, and again, Gordon, a freshman, proved the difference.
"He's better than what I saw on tape and he's as good as anyone I've ever seen on tape," Moss said. "He can guard the ball, guard off the ball, he just gets those fingers in there and makes a play. He can finish in transition. He's as good as anyone I've ever played against."
The game had an early-round NCAA Tournament feel to it at the start, with UNCW breaking to an 18-8 lead after just 4:31.
But as the game wore on, the Seahawks wore down.
The Hoosiers went on a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 27-24, when Bassett completed a three-point play with 7:42 left in the half, and then the defensive pressure changed everything in the final 10 minutes.
With Gordon continually forcing UNCW to go to other players, the turnovers mounted. By halftime, they had 17 turnovers and the Hoosiers were running away with easy baskets that produced a 12-0 spurt and a 39-26 lead.
By halftime it was 52-32, and Gordon and Bassett had already combined for as many points as the entire UNCW team even though Gordon had played most of the half with two fouls.
"Their effort on defense is incredible," Moss said. "And Indiana is only going to get better as those young guys get a feel for what Kelvin wants them to do defensively."
Moss may have seen the beginning of that in the second half when Indiana never gave the Seahawks a chance.
The Hoosiers extended the lead to 28 with 13:13 to go and led by as much as 32 before pulling the starters.
It was the only thing that prevented the Hoosiers from topping 100 points in their second straight game, a feat they haven't achieved since November 2005, and flirted with triple digits for the third straight game.
Only this time, it was the Hoosiers defense that was impressive and the offense that played was complimentary.
"It was a really good defensive performance for us," Sampson said. "Our defense continually caused problems for them. It is good to see ball pressure on the wing, and I thought we made good progress."
Indiana plays Illinois State in the third game of the tournament Friday night in Chicago.
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