Bryson Scott had 18 points, 12 boards, three assists and three steals to lead Fort Wayne to a 71-68 overtime win over No. 3 Indiana in Fort Wayne on Tuesday night.
John Konchar added 15 points, 11 boards and four assists, hitting a free throw with less than a minute left in the game that gave the Mastadons a 69-68 lead. The win was made all the more impressive by the fact that Mo Evans, Fort Wayne’s best player who was averaging 23 points entering the night, was just 4-for-15 from the floor as he battled foul trouble all night.
Indiana was without O.G. Anunoby for much of the night. He was scoreless and sat out for most of the second half and overtime.
Before I get into my full thoughts on this game, a couple of things to note:
1. We need to credit Indiana for actually scheduling this game. It wasn’t a true road environment – the game wasn’t played at Fort Wayne’s on-campus facility and there were more Indiana fans in the building than Fort Wayne fans – but it was a road game. Tom Crean didn’t have to play this game and he usually doesn’t play games like this, but they make college basketball so much better when they are played in November. So a tip of the cap to you, Tom. I hope this doesn’t change your mind on games like this.
“I want to say here, I appreciate Coach Crean for coming. What he did today was unbelievable,” Fort Wayne head coach Jon Coffman said in the postgame interview while holding his son in his arms in a see of Mastadon fans that stormed the court. “It doesn’t happen in college basketball. Taking the challenge, for him to bring his team to Fort Wayne and help our city, not about our win, but they’ll be talking about Indiana coming to Fort Wayne for the next 50 years. He was the reason they did it. No one else in the country will do that.”
“Right now, he’s thinking this was a bad decision. They’ll have growth from this. I really appreciate him just coming. Win or loss, we won the game before it started.”
2. Fort Wayne is good. They are the favorite to win the Summit League, which is always one of the better mid-major leagues in the country. They’re tough defensively, they’re well-coached and they went into this game expecting to win. So we’ll give them a tip of the cap as well.
As far as the Hoosiers are concerned, this game really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to Indiana fans if they were paying attention.
Indiana is a team that relies heavily on the three-ball. That’s more or less been the case for every relevant team that Tom Crean has had with the exception of the team that featured Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. When those threes are going down, when this team gets hot, the Hoosiers can do what we saw them do on the season’s opening night. They can beat a team like Kansas, who just about everyone has had pegged as a top three team since Kris Jenkins buried a buzzer-beating three to end the 2015-16 season.
When those threes are going down the way that they went down against Kansas – on Tuesday, Indiana shot 7-for-24 from three – it can mask the warts on a team.
And this Indiana team has warts.
Well, it’s more of a wart, singular: The don’t have a second option offensively when teams can run them off the three-point line. They don’t have a go-to guy. Look at their roster. Who on that team can create their own shot?Who can create an open look for someone else on the floor? Who on that team can Crean give the rock to and say, ‘clear out, he’s got this’? Who is their Yogi Ferrell?
Against Kansas and during the first two weeks of the season, it looked like it would be James Blackmon Jr., but he played terribly against Fort Wayne. There were stretches where it didn’t look like he was able to put the ball on the floor without dribbling off of his feet. He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting while going 1-for-5 from three and committing three of Indiana’s 14 turnovers.
Robert Johnson couldn’t be that guy on Tuesday. Neither could Josh Newkirk or Juwan Morgan. When Thomas Bryant actually did get the ball in the most he wasn’t able to score either.
It’s a huge problem for the Hoosiers, one that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Indiana is going to get their fair share of wins this season simply because they have enough dangerous shooters and they are a capable-at-worst defensive team, particularly when Anunoby is healthy.
But without a go-to guy, there aren’t going to be answers when a team is able to bog their offense down.