There will be nights this season when Indiana wins games behind an offensive barrage of 3-pointers.
Saturday night was not one of those occasions, but the No. 11 Hoosiers will gladly take more of what did produce a 73-49 win over Division II No. 3 Bellarmine at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Defense, rebounding and a healthy dose of OG Anunoby drove IU to an easier than expected victory in its second and final exhibition game, especially considering the Hoosiers’ struggles shooting the ball.
Indiana shot just 6-of-29 from beyond the 3-point arc, but still connected on 47.5 percent (29-of-61) from the field overall thanks to easy baskets via turnovers and putbacks.
Leading the way in almost every category was Anunoby, who surpassed last year’s career high of 14 points in the first half on the way to 25 points and six rebounds, shooting 10-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3, the only Hoosier better than 25 percent from deep until back-to-back 3s in the final two minutes from freshman Grant Gelon.
Thomas Bryant added 11 points and seven rebounds, while James Blackmon pitched in with 10 second-half points for Indiana, which opens the regular season Friday against Kansas in Honolulu, Hawaii.
IU finished with 19 points off turnovers and 13 second-chance points, 11 of which came in the first half, forcing the Knights into 20 giveaways and never letting the visitors get comfortable.
The result was an unexpectedly large margin of victory against Bellarmine, which lost by just 11 points at Assembly Hall in the preseason last year and was coming off a nine-point loss at Cincinnati earlier this week.
Preseason All-American Rusty Troutman, guarded initially by Anunoby, was limited to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in 29 minutes.
The defense was strong from the get-go by Indiana, which saw Josh Newkirk and Robert Johnson move into the starting lineup, joining James Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and Anunoby.
Blackmon was the poster boy for IU’s shooting woes, missing his first nine shots from the field and going 0-of-7 from 3.
The game also saw junior college transfer Freddie McSwain make his Indiana debut coming off preseason knee surgery. He almost made a spectacular introduction to Assembly Hall when he he attempted a putback dunk in his first minute on the floor that caromed off the back of the rim.
The night also saw IU coach Tom Crean hand out Big Ten championship rings before the game to former Hoosiers Jackson Tharp, Ryan Burton and Max Bielfeldt.