BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) James Blackmon Jr. and the Indiana Hoosiers made quick work of overmatched Liberty.
Blackmon made five 3-pointers and had 20 points to help No. 6 Indiana rout Liberty 87-48 on Saturday night.
Indiana (3-0) scored the first nine points and built a 32-point lead in the first half.
“The game seemed like it lasted four days,” Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said. “I cannot remember the start.”
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean sure did.
“The most important thing for us was to get off to a really good start defensively,” he said.
Liberty (1-2) tried to fight back with 3-pointers, but made it worse by continually missing. The Flames were 5 of 27 (18.5 percent) from beyond the arc, including 1 of 17 (5.9 percent) in the first half. Indiana finished 9 of 21 (42.9 percent).
“That’s one thing we wanted to definitely focus on, no matter who we’re playing, play like we’re us and not play to the opponent,” said Blackmon, who is averaging 23 points and has 14 3-pointers.
Robert Johnson added 13 points for Indiana and OG Anunoby had 10 points and 11 rebounds, the first double-double of the sophomore forward’s career. Anunoby’s energy was noticeable at both ends on back-to-back possessions when he blocked a shot three rows deep into the stands and then threw down a two-handed dunk off a rebound.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Anunoby said of the Hoosiers’ defense, “but we know we’ll get better.”
Crean had stressed the importance of rebounding before his Hoosiers seized a 55-20 advantage on the boards.
“Tonight, it was more about, `Let’s get on the glass,”‘ Crean said. “`Let’s get on the glass offensively. Let’s get on the glass defensively. Let’s make sure our effort and energy is really good there.”‘
Crean thought his team’s season-opening trip to Hawaii eight days ago had his players jet-lagged earlier in the week. The legs were fresher against the Flames as the Hoosiers hounded Liberty into 26 turnovers.
“We try to be disruptive in passing lanes and box out and just pressure the ball,” Anunoby said.
Liberty’s John Dawson, who entered with a team-best 14.5-point average, scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting. No Liberty player scored in double digits.
McKay was overly effusive in his praise of the Hoosiers.
“Indiana is really impressive,” the coach said. “I sat on an ACC bench the last six years and saw a lot of quality teams and Indiana is as good as I have seen in years.
“They have everything; size, depth, strength, skill, unselfishness. That is a terrific team.”
ADVANTAGE BY 3S
Indiana has made 35 of 79 3-pointers (44.3 percent) with eight different players contributing at least one basket from long range. In addition to Blackmon’s 14, Johnson, Anunoby and Curtis Jones each have four. Hoosiers opponents have made just 21 of 71 3-pointers (29.6 percent).
Indiana improved to 2-0 in its four-team tournament, which also includes UMass Lowell and Fort Wayne. The Hoosiers drubbed UMass Lowell 100-78 on Wednesday.
Liberty: The Flames have never knocked off a Top 25 team in 14 tries and have never defeated a Big Ten foe in four meetings, so it’s not as if they expected to pull off an upset. They can bounce back with two winnable home games.
Indiana: It’s all about staying perfect against inferior competition as the Hoosiers inch closer to a Nov. 30 home showdown against No. 5 North Carolina.
Liberty: Host UMass Lowell on Monday.
Indiana: At Fort Wayne on Tuesday.