Fort Wayne upsets IU in overtime, 71-68

FORT WAYNE — Tom Crean aimed for reassurance.

With 8:41 remaining in the second half, his team trailing by seven, Crean stood in front of the Indiana bench and fixed his eyes on a bubbling upset.

“We’re gonna be fine,” he said to the Hoosiers seated behind him. “We’re gonna be fine.”

Except that, on this night, Indiana was most definitely not.

Playing in front of an overwhelming pro-IU crowd at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, the No. 3 Hoosiers never took control in a disappointing, 71-68 overtime loss to Fort Wayne.

Blame an absent defensive approach, blame an offense that never found its comfort or — worse yet — settled for contested shots. There was plenty of blame to go around.

Indiana (3-1) had to learn from a few embarrassing early-season losses away from home last season. Now it must do so again.

“Either way, when the game got started, I thought we were going to learn a very valuable lesson one way or the other,” Crean said. “Hopefully, we learned it. We didn’t get the result we wanted by any stretch.”

Though the fans inside an old, but rocking arena were aching to celebrate a rare appearance by the Hoosiers in Fort Wayne, IU gave them no such satisfaction. Indiana went 11-for-19 at the free throw line. It sank merely seven of its 24 3-point attempts and turned the ball over 15 times.

Crean has cautioned at times this month that this Hoosier team is not yet where it needs to be. A disjointed off-season full of injuries is partly to blame.

By early Wednesday morning, IU returned to its bus left to diagnose the first troubling result of the young season.

“The bottom line is you gotta try and find a way to win it,” Crean said. “We did a lot of different things to try and stem the tide. But the bottom line is they executed better. That’s just highly disappointing to me. They passed the ball quicker and much better than we did tonight. That’s not a good recipe for us on our end. We were not as locked in to the personnel and what we needed to do with the block-outs. With all that being said, if we make our free throws and a couple different plays, it’s a different result.”

IU’s Thomas Bryant and Fort Wayne’s Bryson Scott each scored 18 points. Robert Johnson added 16 points, while James Blackmon Jr. and Josh Newkirk each added 13.

Johnson and Fort Wayne’s Kason Harrell traded 3-pointers in the extra period, but IU never seized the moment. Jon Konchar’s free throw with 1:19 to play in the extra period put the Mastodons up 69-68 before DeAngelo Stewart ended the night with two more from the line.

In between, Bryant missed a free throw and Blackmon was swallowed whole as he attempted to drive to the rim in the waning seconds. Little went right for the Hoosiers on Tuesday, and from the very beginning, it was clear something was amiss.

After Bryant opened the scoring with a 3-pointer up top, Fort Wayne answered with an 13-0 run. On the bench, Crean looked at Newkirk and said, “Get ready to go, Josh. We’re slow.”

Fort Wayne’s speed was one of Crean’s concerns entering this game, and the Mastodons had little trouble pushing the pace and running to the rim. The Hoosiers offered little defensive resistance, losing Mastodons in the corner and allowing open lanes in the paint.

At one point during Fort Wayne’s early rally, which again swelled to as many as 10 points midway through the first period and 12 in the second, a sign rose from the Fort Wayne student section along the baseline reading: “President Trump — so there’s a chance.” Minutes later, chants of “OVER-RATED” began bellowing out from that same group.

Even defensive whiz OG Anunoby was out of sorts on this night. Anunoby went scoreless in 13 minutes, and afterwards, Crean revealed that the sophomore had developed a sickness sometime Tuesday afternoon.

“We tried to push him through,” Crean said, “but he didn’t have it.”

On the offensive end, Fort Wayne doubled down on Bryant in the post while IU’s shooters hit only three of their first 15 3-point attempts of the night. It didn’t get much better from there.

Indiana took a brief lead four minutes into the second half when Bryant completed a three-point play to put the Hoosiers up 43-42. But a spurt of back-to-back turnovers by Johnson and Devonte Green helped Fort Wayne to a six-point run leading into the first media timeout of the half. That lead was back to 10 by the second media timeout, at which point IU’s lackadaisical approach was at its peak.

The Hoosiers were able to answer with an 8-0 run, getting as close as 62-60 with six minutes to play. Fort Wayne’s Kason Harrell and Newkirk traded 3’s in the final two minutes to keep the Mastodon lead at two points.

After he was fouled on a putback with 19.1 seconds remaining in regulation, Bryant went to the line and sank both free throws to force overtime.

It was the final IU highlight of the night.

A sea of crimson T-shirts filled the 13,000 seat arena, and long before the game tipped, a phalanx of fans in IU garb crowded the Hoosiers’ side of the court during warmups to take photos of the team as it began warmups. When IU’s team emerged from its locker room tunnel and ran onto the floor prior to tipoff, the arena erupted in a roar. Bryant raised both hands, motioned to each side of the gym and signaled for more.

This was a road game in name alone.

The only thing missing from the game experience was Assembly Hall public address announcer Chuck Crabb. During pregame introductions, the Hoosiers were greeted to Assembly Hall staple “Where the Streets Have No Name” by the band U2. The jumbotron above center court also showed a pregame IU hype video similar to the one shown before games in Bloomington.

But by the end of the night, all the hype belonged to Fort Wayne.

“We don’t like the outcome,” Blackmon said. “So that’s definitely what we have to go back and do. We have to go back and learn from it”


  1. Was OG sick?

    Why were they experimenting with a zone? They’re deeper and were terrible with their rebounding responsibilities in man… did they think it would improve in a zone?

    Team needed its ego checked… this usually happens under Crean when they have some success and jump in the rankings. Crean teams are almost always better as the underdog. For some reason he just isn’t able to get his team to handle success.

    If OG wasn’t sick, he seems like an odd choice to hold accountable and make a point with.

    I’m weird, it’s the coach (and entrepreneur) in me, but I actually love these losses.

    Loved the post-game interview with the FW coach…

  2. This game boiled down to hustle. They merely out hustled us. 11 steals & 7 blocks against us. Funny you mention the zone Geoff…..with 16 min to go I was screaming for Crean to go to it, because they can’t shoot the 3 & like everybody we’ve played they exploited our pathetic perimeter defense, another Crean staple. Obviously we couldn’t shoot it either tonight but that was due to a completely stagnant offense. No picks, no rolls, no plays, too much standing around.

    And cheers to the IPFW coach, I agree. Class act. Next Crean replacement rumor.

  3. & I might add the totally inept end of game full court play call. Same thing every time. Remember Maui last year by the bench? Couldn’t get it in twice! Why? No movement, no creativity.

  4. As soon as the #3 ranking was made public, I suspected this team was ripe for a HUGE failure. Getting ranked that high was a huge psychological burden, and it created this debacle. What a joke this game was. IU deserved to lose. Well, they won’t be ranked in the top five again for a while, and maybe that will galvanize their focus.

  5. JBJ really created the “Homecoming” he earned. Entitlement has sneaked back into IUBB. IU shoots 40% FG, 29% 3Pt., 58% Foul Shooting. IPFW 11 steals, IU 4, IPFW 8 TO’s, Hoosiers 15. IPFW played D the way I wish IU would. If not for switching to a zone though the Mastodons would have looked like bigger champions. Really the only thing you have to do to play perimeter defense is move your feet. Move the ball handler toward help. Not very much for a college kid to remember about that. Maybe it is Crean that can’t remember. Hope I’m wrong.

  6. Best thing about this game other than F.W. win from its perspective was the class act of F.W. coach post game interview. Happy Thanksgiving to him.

  7. IU should have a deep enough bench to win this kind of game by taking any combination of 5 players out of the top 10 and win the game.

  8. Instead of bringing these 200 plus rated teams to Assembly Hall, I U should schedule two to three instate teams, like Valpo, Evansville, IUPUI, IUPFW, Ball State, and Indiana State and also play one instate game on the road. We need some early competition and these in state schools would have a fan base that would follow the games and keep our Hoosier dollars in state for these guaranteed payments these out of state 200 plus teams get for playing I U . Fan interest would be greater with the instate schools, as these out of state teams may have bring a few fans that sit behind their team and the I U fan base would be greater than last Saturday’s night 12,500 plus announced attendance.

  9. After the Kansas win, the last two games were #248 & 265 (KenPom). Builds false confidence with those those last two wins. Throw in the #3 ranking and the #1 Power Ranking and the stage is set for the result yesterday. Give them some credit for coming back with the help of the zone. Overall a very listless effort. With #344 coming in next all will seem fine. Seemed we were back to Yogi days with drives to the basket going nowhere. Free throws & defense – weak, but I would think both will improve as the season progresses. If not, could be a short and frustrating season.

    Excellent suggestion from IU South.

  10. Firstly, a lot of credit to IPFW. They’re a pretty good team. I was impressed how they came out swinging with pride. Imagine walking onto your home court and seeing nothing by rabid fans in the opposing team’s colors. Oh wait, I can, I’m an IU football fan.

    These guys watched a lot of IU film. They went after each of Indiana’s weakness (as a team) and the exploited them at every turn. Great coaching job by Jon Coffman.

    Teams are going to force our guards to drive. Especially JBJ. Our half court offense stinks and I don’t know why it is so hard for Indiana’s coaching staff to teach our guards how to make a post entry pass. If we want to live and die by the three, it’ll be much easier if we can get the ball inside. Thomas Bryant is a pretty good passer. This seems so freaking obvious. Instead, I saw a lot more standing around, little movement away from the ball and everything revolving around throwing the ball up late in the shot clock from 3. Commentators saw it as Indiana just having a cold shooting night. Hard to make a high % of shots that are low % opportunities.

    Defense: this was apparent in all 3 games, our perimeter defense is about where it was last year at this time. Our guards just don’t get in front of guys. We’re completely confused on screens and guys are getting blown away off first step penetration. It was one thing for Mason to juke our guys out of their shoes, it is another for sub 200 KenPom and Summit League teams to do it repeatedly. The penetration led to total breakdowns where, in the beginning of the game, IPFW was getting second chance buckets crashing the offensive boards.

    I love listening to bloviating commentators excuse IU’s turnovers as a byproduct of our pace of play. They don’t seem to actually watch and link how these turnovers actually occur. Last night, most of our turnovers happened in the half-court offense. We don’t seem to have any plan when we aren’t in the open court, running in transition. Rob Johnson had a good shooting night, but good heavens, his 5 turnovers last night were awful. C’mon Rob, you’re a Junior and a leader on this team–you should be far past making these kind of unforced errors at this point in your career.

    The sky isn’t falling. It’s a long season and I love the players on this team. But some of the same issues that have plagued Indiana’s very talented teams in the past are still with them. It is good for us to get a wake up call this early in the season.

  11. A horrible performance. We really missed OG and I do think with him at full strength, IU wins the game. However, some things are clear: Newkirk is a very inconsistent player, and you cannot have that from your point guard. Morgan is a marginal offensive player who really needs to learn to finish around the rim. Bryant and Johnson are playing well, but I would like to see Bryant concentrate more on inside scoring. Blackmon needs to play to his strengths and driving the ball against 2 or 3 players is not one of them. DD needs to learn some post scoring moves because so far he has demonstrated none. This loss will hurt the IU profile in the short term, which makes a win against UNC critical. They will have tremendous energy for that game, unlike last night. Still hopeful for a very good season.

  12. Bill Walton (again), just noted the best BB game he ever watched was NLV / Indiana. Not sure which yr that was. Guess I could reverse and listen again, but need to limit the time listening to him (” Be the Rainbow”) (“Who will become the Light?”).

    Third day of good basketball on TV. Even with Walton.

    IU / IPFW…may be the most meaningful game of the yr for IU.

  13. Walton was likely referring to one of our banner years….Thinking it may have been ’87? Jerry T. had his ‘Runnin’ Rebels’ going on all cylinders. I believe they met IU in a regional game. UNLV was expected to possibly run IU out of the gym. Some thought Knight would slow the game down….He did just the opposite and ran right with them…
    Could be wrong. Chet is very strong in the IU b-ball history dept….

  14. DD – I think Thomas Bryant spends entirely too much time on his ass… why the hell des he fall down every 5th time up and down the court?

    1. Very good point i noticed the same thing! He looked like a fish out of water too many times! He finally does make a great play and taunts the crowd. Did he realize they were supposed to win! Absolutely PATHETIC! But congrats to IPFW

  15. Ok, so I saw on another site that OG was sick… he is extremely important to this team because he galvanizes them defensively. There really aren’t that many good defenders on this squad… RJ is ok… I have a feeling Newkirk can probably D up… but other than that players are either raw or have a fatal defensive flaw. I also think that it shows how mentally fragile this team is at this point in the season… Hartman really could have helped last night. Looking forward to the next game to see how they bounce back and what strategies they deploy defensively. Not a fan of the zone with that deep a bench…

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