Dec. 9, 2009
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NEW YORK--With solid defense and a commitment to scoring inside, the Indiana University men's basketball team (4-4) secured a 74-64 win Tuesday night over Pittsburgh (7-2 ) at the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden. With the win, Hoosier Coach Tom Crean recorded his 200th career triumph as a head coach.
"The bottom line is that they (the players) really earned it, said Crean. "It gnaws at you as a coach, as a leader or as a parental figure when your guys are working so hard and you want them to have success. I called my wife after the game and that's the first thing she said, `It's so great for them, they earned it." That's what we all feel like. These guys are working so hard and they needed a reason to see why they practiced twice on Thanksgiving Day and why we do individual workouts in the morning. But this was great, at a great venue and it was fantastic."
The Hoosiers showed plenty of toughness against a Big East squad, outscoring the Panthers 40-20 in the paint and making a season-high 25 free throws in 34 attempts.
Sophomore Tom Pritchard scored the first six points of the game for IU, but the Hoosiers trailed 10-6 early, but would take their first lead on a pair of charity tosses by freshman Christian Watford. The Hoosiers bench also got key contributions from freshmen Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco as they built up a six point lead midway through the half.
Pittsburgh paced by Ashton Gibbs' 14 first half points was able to regain the lead and the teams were tied seven times in the first half. The Hoosiers took the lead for good with 1:28 to go in the half on a jumper by sophomore Verdell Jones III and the Champaign native added a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left before halftime as Indiana went into the locker room with a 33-29 lead. Jones suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and was less than 100 percent entering the game.
Six times this season, IU has gone into halftime with a lead and Jones III made sure his team focused on the need to finish.
"We knew that we had been in this position before and everyone was focused on their role," said Jones III. "That is what makes it such a special team win."
With IU leading 35-34 with 17:17 to go, the Hoosiers began a 24-8 run to build a 17 point lead. With the Hoosiers leading 45-37 with 11:02 to go, senior Devan Dumes made the Hoosiers lone triple of the night giving IU its first double digit lead of the night and that seemed to loosen up the Hoosiers as they controlled the game the rest of the way.
The Hoosiers held Pitt to 30.8% shooting for the second half and 31.4% for the game, while shooting 51.9% from the floor themselves in the second half. In addition, IU would have a season-high 10 blocks with Watford and Jones III with three each, Creek with two, and Jobe and Elston chipping in one apiece.
Jones III would lead Indiana with a season-high 20 points and Watford would contribute 18. Elston would score nine points. Creek had eight points, eight rebounds and four assists, Capobianco finished with seven points and four rebounds and Pritchard would have six points and two boards.
Junior Jeremiah Rivers played with a stiff back but had three points, five boards and four assists and Dumes defense was key in hoilding Pitt down in the second half. In addition, senior Tijan Jobe also had a block and key rebound during an IU run.
"Two guys that really stand out to me... because of the injuries that they had over the weekend are Verdell Jones and Jeremiah Rivers," added Crean. "For those two to play the way that they did, with Verdell's ankle and Jeremiah's back, for those guys to just absolutely play on pure guts, I thought that was great. I think that's something that's going to really serve them as well."
Jones III also was quick to praise Dumes for his senior leadership.
"Leadership really came into it," said Jones III. "Devan (Dumes) did a great job, behind the scenes, of calming us down. It was a big game, nationally televised game, we knew that and we really wanted to win. Our hunger really showed."
The Hoosiers will host #4 Kentucky on Saturday at noon in a game televised by CBS.