IU Gets Beat By Fort Wayne For Second Consecutive Year
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For an extinct species, the Mastodons of Fort Wayne sure seem to come alive against Indiana's Hoosiers.
Fort Wayne hit 10 of 17 second-half 3s to finish 17 of 30 for the game (.567) while blowing IU out Monday night, 92-72
The Hoosiers gave up a 56-point second half to a mid-major foe. At home.
"Really disappointing game for our team," IU coach Archie Millersaid. "Give Fort Wayne a lot credit. Executed their game plan on both ends of the floor really well."
It was a virtual repeat of the 90-69 home loss to Indiana State that opened the Hoosier campaign.
The Hoosiers were just one shy of matching their season-high 19 turnovers that came against ISU, and Fort Wayne exactly matched the number of 3s the Sycamores hit against the Hoosiers.
But this came more than five weeks into the season, on the heels of Saturday's upset win over Notre Dame that initially seemed to represent a corner turned for IU.
The Hoosiers couldn't seem to turn a corner on a drive, or corner anybody defensively, Monday. Indiana seemed unable to defend the perimeter, even though the Mastodons don't sport much of an interior offensive threat on paper.
Kason Harrell, a Fort Wayne junior guard who entered averaging 12.4 points and shooting .333 from 3-point range for the season, scored 28 and hit 6 of 11 3s. Senior guard Bryson Scott scored 26 and had four of the Mastodons' 13 steals. Another guard, John Konchar, scored 16 and shot 4 of 7 from 3.
"I thought their guards played exceptionally well," Miller said. "Their stat lines speak for themselves."
The start didn't necessarily hint those stat lines were coming. The first shot of the game was a Scott air-ball to prompt a shot-clock violation and IU got off to a 6-1 lead. But then the Hoosiers started getting careless with the ball, en route to 12 first-half turnovers.
Emblematic was a sequence at the 15:25 mark. IU pivotman De'Ron Davis got pinned in the corner after an offensive rebound. Devonte Green called for the ball, but didn't come to meet the pass. Green's defender, Harrell, made the steal and went all the way to make it 11-8, Fort Wayne.
Another early negative for the Hoosiers came when Juwan Morgan, the National Player of the Week for his scintillating performance in Saturday's win over Notre Dame, picked up his second foul on an illegal-screen call. That put him on the bench for the final 11 minutes of the half.
In the interim, Morgan's teammates struggled. Signs of sloppiness and lack of focus abounded. Josh Newkirk missed two straight layups, one with either hand.
Indiana still managed to eke out a 37-36 halftime lead. But if IU discussed ball security and defending 3s during intermission, those aspects of play just got worse, not better.
"I thought in the first half, our defense wasn't really the problem," Miller said. "Our offense was the problem in the first half. I think we had 12 turnovers … you can't run a guy down and defend them when they're going down on two-on-ones, one-on-zero (with) turnovers. You can't defend those.
"(And it) wasn't close in terms of the approach coming out after halftime. It wasn't close."
Scott gave the Mastodons the lead – for good, as it turned out, with a 3 that made it 43-42 with 15:42 left.
Miller was compelled to call timeout at the 14:40 mark after three steals and three layups in just over a minute by the Mastodons, two by Scott.
"We played selfish, offensively," Miller said. "It got contagious with the turnovers. The turnovers sort of led to a dam that broke in the second half when they got run-out baskets.
"I thought we were paralyzed by our offense … they weren't even turnovers that were, like, forced. That's the thing that frustrates you.
"It's out-letting the ball to the other team on a rebound. It's dribbling the ball way too much, dribbling into the defense where they can steal it off you. Thirteen steals is a lot of steals, especially for a team that doesn't even press. Unforced errors. Lackadaisical. In some cases just really mind-boggling."
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne freshmen such as 6-foot-11 Dylan Carl and 6-1 guard Matt Weir were coming off the bench to drain 3s during a stretch where the Mastodons made 8 of 9 from behind the arc to blow the game wide open.
IU never made a run down the stretch. The Fort Wayne lead peaked at 22 (82-60) on a Konchar 3 with 4:22 to play.
Robert Johnson had 17 points to lead IU, which also 14 from Morgan, but the Hoosiers clearly didn't handle Saturday's success well, collectively. Even with extra motivation to pay back a Fort Wayne team that also beat IU the year before.
"I mean, we just have to understand as a team that when you have 'Indiana' across your chest, it doesn't matter where we're playing or who we're playing, they're coming to win," IU's Collin Hartman said. "They want to win. When we don't show up, don't play like we practice, it can be one of those nights.
"We didn't come out ready to play, mentally. We didn't do what we needed to do, offensively or defensively. Give them credit. They shot tremendously and played great defense. We just didn't come out ready to play."
Miller said he hadn't sensed the letdown coming, but knew it might.
"You're always concerned," Miller said of the letdown following Saturday's big win. "I think handling success is a lot harder than getting kicked in the face. Everybody knows, when you get kicked in the face, how you respond."
IU's chance to respond comes Thursday, with Tennessee Tech visiting Assembly Hall for an 8 p.m. tipoff.