Blackmon out indefinitely with lower leg injury

It’s not getting any easier for Indiana.

The Hoosiers will be without leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. when it faces Northwestern this evening after the junior guard sustained a lower leg injury during Thursday’s loss at Michigan.

Injuries continue to undercut IU’s potential to fix its season, which has already seen sophomore forward OG Anunoby and senior forward Collin Hartman lost to season-ending knee injuries. Blackmon, meanwhile, will miss an indefinite period of time, forcing the Hoosiers to complete a two-game road swing without one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons.

“As much as this affects our basketball team — as with all of the other injuries this year — it hurts us much more for James,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “He has been playing at a very high level and this is unfortunate.”

Indeed, Blackmon’s injury comes mere days after he was named NBC Sports’ national player of the week and co-Big Ten Player of the Week. Officials called an injury timeout for Blackmon with three minutes remaining in the first half at Michigan on Thursday after he pulled up limping while driving the ball across midcourt.

But Blackmon, who has also experienced three major knee surgeries in the past five years, did not come out of the game and went on to play 15 minutes in the second half. He finished with four points and did not attempt a shot in the final period.

That kind of performance is an abberation for the Big Ten’s fourth-leading scorer at 17.6 points per game — and that’s production the Hoosiers will look in multiple directions to replace.

“The whole team is gonna have to raise their level of play higher to make up for a player of James’ caliber,” assistant Rob Judson said. “You look at those two games at Penn state, Michigan State and what he did for our ball club, it’s going to take a whole team concerted effort in order to make up for where he has been having us go.”

Complicating matters for Indiana, beyond the absences of Anunoby and Hartman, is that Juwan Morgan doesn’t yet appear to be 100 percent healthy. Morgan, who missed the Penn State and Michigan State games with a foot injury, returned at Michigan, but continues to feel his way back into action.

Morgan was clearly limited against the Wolverines, playing 11 minutes, scoring three points and grabbing two rebounds. The sophomore had been starting and averaging 20.5 minutes per game prior to the injury.

“We’ll have to see what Juwan can do,” Judson said. “He’s playing with a lot of grit and we’ll need him to continue to do that.”

So the Hoosiers’ task of finding themselves in the wake of the third-worst Big Ten loss of the Tom Crean era is further compounded by continuing health concerns.

At one point this season, one of IU’s greatest attritbutes was its depth. That, now, is getting a test.

Freshmen guards Curtis Jones and Devonte Green have shown flashes of their abilities. In Blackmon’s indefinite absence, they’ll need to produce with greater consistency. Blackmon’s injury may also open more playing time for another freshman — Grant Gelon. The little-used Crown Point native scored a career-high eight points during his two minutes of action late against the Wolverines.

Opposite itself, Indiana tonight will find a Northwestern program playing outstanding basketball, forging a potential course to their first NCAA Tournament bid in program history.

After dropping two in a row to Michigan State and Minnesota to begin Big Ten play, the Wildcats have won five straight, riding the highs of a trio of core players that have made Chis Collins’ third year in Evanston a success.

Native Hoosier Bryant McIntosh can do a little bit of everything at the point guard position. He’s the league’s top assist man at 5.6 per game, while averaging 12.4 points. Although his efficiency from 3-point range is down this year — he’s shooting 27 percent after hitting at a 36 percent clip as a sophomore last year, the Greensburg native is doing a nice job keying the Wildcat attack.

“He’s mixing it up,” IU’s Robert Johnson said. “He’s not just looking to get other guys involved. He’s looking for himself more and I think he’s playing more confident.”

Scottie Lindsey, meanwhile, is turning into a star. Lindsey, who’s averaging 15.6 points, had scored in double figures in each of his first 20 games until turning in five points against Nebraska on Thursday. In his first year as a starter, the junior is developing into one of the most efficient players in the conference.

Vic Law, too, will have IU’s attention. After missing all of last season with a shoulder injury, the former four-star recruit is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc, whille hitting 87 percent of his free throws during conference play.

While those three have helped Northwestern to its best start in program history, Dererk Pardon is coming off his best game. The sophomore forward scored 19 points and grabbed 22 rebounds against the Cornhuskers, marking the first time since 1999 that a Wildcat pulled down at leasd 20 boards.

“Northwestern is playing at a very, very high level right now,” Judson said. “They will have a tremendous home court tomorrow with their crowd. Bryant McIntosh is running that team masterfully. He’s the top assist player in the Big Ten. Pardon just came off a 19-point, 22 rebound performance, then Lindsey and Law can really get hot and fill it up from the perimeter. So they’re a team that is playing at a high level and it will be a big challenge for our ball club.”

Especially in the absence of Indiana’s top scorer.

26 comments

  1. This is the best thing that could happen for CTC. The Hoosiers don’t have to win another game. He can just point to the injuries. UCLA is still down 4 players and expected to field a competitive team.

  2. Injuries and other issues are part of higher risk system that IU and T.C. program plays or represents in philosophy that rope a dopes into excuses.

  3. Again poor management of the on court program as I bet Crean wishes he now would have played the 2 Frosh G’s more in OOC play. So, so far behind the 8 ball it is sickening. Yes he has the excuses for the short term but the ending will be the same.

    1. ITH thinks the injury happened just after the 2 min mark in the 1st half. James came out limping after a half court set.

  4. Ucla is still losing dude they just lost to usc this week and arizona last keep up with whats happening and stop makin uniformed comments

  5. You’ve got to wonder why Crean left James Blackmon in the game to fight through the pain. And you have to wonder if our team is going to resent that. It used to be that Northwestern was an easy ‘win’ for IU….now it is going to be a compelling game (and it’s tomorrow, t)

  6. Sad news for James and for the team. Hopefully will make a full and speedy recovery. I don’t think we would have a true shot with or without him. I don’t see many wins left on the schedule. Sad news though for James

  7. It is sad for JBjr plus OG. It is sad regarding all the injuries and issues during T.C. era but not nearly as sad as many other things in this world.

  8. As usual I agree with you t…..however, it is quite possible that Cory Jones gets red-hot and carries us to an astounding win today @ 6:30!!!!! and it’s quite possible that Thomas Bryany becomes our # 1 option and we give him the ball down low and let him get to work!!!! That crowd up there is new at rooting for their team…if we come out with gusto and rock them silly they’ll get real quiet (as they certainly know how to do!) and we’ll cruise.

  9. As usual I agree with you t…..however, it is quite possible that Cory Jones gets red-hot and carries us to an astounding win today @ 6:30!!!!! and it’s quite possible that Thomas Bryany becomes our # 1 option and we give him the ball down low and let him get to work!!!! That crowd up there is new at rooting for their team…if we come out with gusto and rock them silly they’ll get real quiet (as they certainly know how to do!) and we’ll cruise. Then again…..maybe not

  10. Seriously. Has anyone seen our defense or there lack-of lately. We don’t have a chance to win any games at this point. This is crazy

  11. Chet, I’m with you on this. I look for our Coaching Staff to make the necessary adjustments for this game. As with Michigan State, where the substitution pattern was markedly different (leaving James in when he got hot rather than taking him out as is usual once he gets going), up here at Northwestern (!!) our Program has the opportunity to show what a deep Team we are! Just as Zach showed (against Michigan State) that a perhaps-less-talented Player who is giving his ALL on EACH and EVERY possession can turn a game, I look for Curtis (not Cory as I mistakenly wrote earlier) and Devonte to show why they were recruited and came to IU! Don’t count us out, we’ve got a play and we’re going to make it happen, especially against an historically inept program such as Northwestern. I am pumped for this game!!!!! and think our players are too….

  12. Coach Tom Crean has pleaded for LEADERSHIP on this team, and who is left? Robert Johnson seems to be the ‘only one left standing’ along with Thomas Bryant, who no one on Northwestern even has a chance of defending. While of course I regret the injuries…the fact is that there is a game to play at 6:30 and we viewers will have the opportunity to see Robert Johnson (our best defender) take control. How I am looking forward to his screaming commands at our team, forcing them with his will to play Defense like it’s meaningful (rather than ‘something to do until we get the ball again’).
    I’m certain Crean and his staff have made the necessary adjustments in our defensive scheme, learning from Michigan (and who could have foretold that they would hit 67% or something from 3 range? Northwestern has no real shooters, Northwestern has no Big Man. We’re going to come out rocking and slam that ball inside and get out of the way. Unless Thomas gets into foul trouble (a distinct possibility, I grant), I can see him pouring in 30 or more. Yes, we’re hurting for certain on size with O.G. gone and Morgan less than full strength. But we don’t NEED size against Northwestern! And if we do we can put in Duran Davis and twin-tower them to extinction. Look, Northwestern (and I cringe every time I write that) is Hoping for their First NCAA berth! We’re lock-solid for post-season play and with our 4 home games remaining should be in NCAA for certain, especially given our stellar play early. Yes, the progression of the season has been a disappointment for some (including me), but I think this game is going to show-case our depth and Coaching Strength just as Michigan State did (though that was a home game and we got some help from being at home). Prediction: IU up 20 at half-time and holding on for the win away from Simon-Skojdt Hall.

  13. This team has never led by committee. Ten years into the Crean era would be a good time to start. That begins with playing a brand of tenacious defense and communicating. Get on the floor. Get on the boards. Seal off your man. Take sound care of the ball. The rest will take care of itself. Run their asses off the floor in transition.
    Newkirk is still the best option to initiate the offense. Green’s contribution will likely surprise.

    Indiana 75
    Northwestern 66

  14. I actually expected better, t. What a mess …..Was Blackmon the only real scorer/sharpshooter on this team? Where’s Earl Calloway and Rod Wilmont when you need them?

  15. It does not matter. The system has been and is and will be broken per what even close to IU standards should be. They continue moving further and further lower.

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