Coming into the NIT, it was widely accepted that Indiana had the talent to not only make a run but to win the tournament. The one question was, how locked in and focused would the team be after the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament?
The answer was, at least for a half, not promising.
Indiana opened the game against the Saint Francis Red Flash lethargic, careless, and uninspired. While the Hoosiers offense was effective for much of the first half, when Juwan Morgan was forced to the bench with two fouls, the Hoosiers found themselves settling for too many threes. The Indiana defense also found itself routinely giving up too many open looks from the perimeter along with allowing Saint Francis to crash the offensive glass.
The Red Flash would go into the half holding onto a 40-34 lead, and it was clear that the team needed an attitude adjustment at the break.
Indiana would get that much-needed attitude adjustment, and this game turned into a tale of two halves. Whereas the first half looked like an uninspired and careless Hoosiers team, the second half Indiana found the necessary intensity level to put away the Red Flash.
Indiana seemed to attack the paint much more often in the second half, force feeding the ball to Morgan on the inside and using their size advantage against the much smaller Red Flash. Indiana would go on to record a 56-18 advantage in points in the paint, and once Indiana decided to attack on the inside there wasn’t much Saint Francis could do to stop them, and Indiana would end up with a dominant 89-72 victory.
Morgan and Al Durham would lead the way in this one for the Hoosiers, with both players combining to record 50 points on 19-26 from the field, and both were effective on both ends for the Hoosiers all night long. Devonte Green continued his streak of promising performances in this one as well, recording 12 points and 6 assists, and though he struggled from the field, shooting just 4-13 on the night, he did knock down a trio of three-pointers.
Now, the Hoosiers will have to turn their attention to the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks, who knocked off Providence in order to advance to the second round. Though Indiana was able to turn it on in the second half against inferior competition tonight, that strategy could have serious drawbacks against the Razorbacks, who knocked off Indiana earlier this year to give the Hoosiers their first loss of the season.