Leading up to the second round game between 4-seed Indiana and 13-seed New Mexico State, much of the talk was about how the Aggies’ ability to both rebound and get to the foul line would give then a shot at the upset.
Neither of those two qualities came to fruition, and the Aggies turned the ball over 16 times (12 on Indiana steals) in a 79-66 Indiana victory. The Hoosiers will take on VCU on Saturday with a trip to the Sweet 16 in the South Region on the line.
Both teams shot well from the field, with New Mexico State knocking down 55.1% of their shots and Indiana even better at 59.3%. The Hoosiers not only took better care of the basketball (11 turnovers) but they also did a better job of setting each other up (13 assists to NMSU’s seven), and that proved to be the difference.
“I thought that my guys played really, really hard. But we just lost to the better team tonight,” said New Mexico State head coach Marvin Menzies. “They were the better team. They shot it better. We out‑rebounded them. But at the end of the day you’ve got to take care of the ball in championship play. And we did a horrible job in that arena.”
Jordan Hulls led the way with 22 points, knocking down four of six shots from beyond the arc, and three other Hoosiers scored 14 points apiece. Indiana shot their highest percentage from the field since a December 19th win over Howard, when they shot 67%.
New Mexico State entered the game with an offensive rebounding percentage of 41.2% (h/t to statsheet.com for that number) but they were limited to seven offensive boards and a 22-20 edge on the glass.
Of course the accuracy of both teams had something to do with the rebounding numbers, and that also magnified the impact of New Mexico State’s sometimes careless decision-making with the basketball.
The athleticism of New Mexico State’s guards led many to think that Indiana could struggle with them when it came to taking care of the basketball but that wasn’t much of an issue. That will have to ring true on Saturday if Tom Crean’s club is to advance to Atlanta.
But if Thursday was any indication as to whether or not the Hoosiers can do so, they may be alright.