HONOLULU — Indiana’s latest trip to the Hawaiian Islands included an extended stay.
This one, unlike last year’s voyage to paradise, included the end result the Hoosiers were looking for.
In a season-opening contest that saw 17 lead changes, 16 ties and a load of fouls, No. 11 Indiana used big shots from behind the arc and at the free throw line to edge No. 3 Kansas 103-99 in overtime at the Armed Forces Classic.
James Blackmon Jr. and Curtis Jones each had key 3-pointers in the extra period, while Jones put the game away in the final 16 seconds with a pair of free throws and a dunk . For those two players, and Indiana’s team as a whole, Friday’s victory served as an announcement to the nation.
In Blackmon’s case, a sterling 26-point effort in his first game since suffering an ACL injury last December is a notice that he’s back. For Jones, it was a showcase of fearless basketball from the freshman guard.
And for the Hoosiers (1-0), it was an example of the versatile and deep approach that could propel this team to more memorable wins like Friday’s.
“You just have to keep finding a way to be resilient,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “These guys did.”
It was a whistle fest, with seven players fouling out. For the Hoosiers, that included Thomas Bryant, Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan. The teams combined for 63 fouls, though IU made the most of its opportunities at the line. The Hoosiers started 10-of-18 on the night, but finished a healthy 26-for-36.
The Hoosiers also manned the boards, outrebounding the Jayhawks 50-39. For IU, 18 of those came on the offensive glass.
“In a game like this, it’s going to be who keeps coming longer,” Crean said. “They kept coming. We knew that they would. Kansas is every bit of what I thought they were, and probably better when you get with them in person.”
Blackmon led IU with 26 points, while Kansas guard Frank Mason led all scorers with 30 points — 13 of which came at the free throw line.
Bryant added a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, and three other Hoosiers finished in double figures, including Jones (15 points), OG Anunoby (13 points) and Johnson (10 points). Morgan also posted 10 rebounds.
It was the 19th consecutive season-opening win for IU, and it stands as the program’s 24th regular season victory over a ranked team since the 2011-12 season. That’s the second most ranked wins in that span nationally, behind only Kansas.
Jones played without hesitation, and provided a noticeable jolt to the Indiana backcourt, supplying eight points in his first six minutes of action. He bookended his strong start with seven points in overtime.
“He’s always been this fearless, as long as I knew him,” Bryant said of Jones, his former high school teammate at Huntington Prep. “He wasn’t afraid to take the big shots in high school, or just taking what the defense gives him. Taking the big shot, he just feeds off that. He likes it.”
Jones, Josh Newkirk, Johnson, Morgan, Devonte Green and Blackmon were among the Hoosiers to take shifts with ball-handling duties.The Hoosiers played a variety of lineup combinations, especially early. By the time Freddie McSwain checked in at the 9:21 mark of the first half, Crean had already reached 10 men deep into his bench.
IU struggled early, relying on a string of 3-point attempts before attempting their first shot inside the arc at the 13:48 mark of the half. IU hit four of its first eight deep shots, including two in a row from Bryant to start the game.
Bryant’s presence allowed the Hoosiers to settle in during the middle stretch of the first half, and IU took a 33-29 lead with five minutes remaining in the first period.
Kansas answered with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes as the Hoosiers played without pace and forced shots. Indiana regrouped for a more poised finish to the half, and trailed merely 46-42 at the intermission.
In a back and fourth second half, Indiana broke a 74-74 tie with five minutes remaining on a pair of free throws by Bryant. Additional free throws by Blackmon and Morgan helped the Hoosiers build their largest lead of the night, 81-76, with 3:45 to play.
Kansas erased that advantage in a matter of moments, going ahead 82-81 on a three-point play by Frank Mason in the final two minutes.
Blackmon put IU back in front on a 3-pointer and drew physical contact on another 3-point attempt on the ensuing trip down the floor. He hit all three free throws to rebuild IU’s previous five-point advantage.
Johnson had a chance to extend that lead at the line, but missed both of his free throws then fouled out on the other end as Mason converted the front end of a three-point play to get KU within two.
After Bryant picked up his fifth foul on IU’s next trip down the floor, Mason streaked downcourt and hit another layup, drawing contact once again as he tied the game at 87-87 with 40 seconds to play.
A frenetic pace for a flashbulb finish.
On IU’s next trip down the floor, Blackmon drew contact under the basket as he went to shoot. At the line, Blackmon sank both shots to give IU the 89-87 lead with 13.1 left in regulation. Mason, however, wasn’t done. He drew a foul and hit both free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 89-all.
There, Blackmon and Jones shined and put the game on ice with big shots from the free throw line and beyond.
“I said to (director of basketball administration) Jayd Grossman before the game, ‘It feels like March,'” Crean said. “We’re in Honolulu and it’s Nov. 11, but it feels like March in here. That’s exactly the way that game played out.”