Hoosiers throttle Kentucky in rematch, 109-81

INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Shannon didn’t necessarily want the history lesson, but he received it anyway.

Not long before tip-off Saturday, one of Shannon’s assistant coaches on the Indiana All-Star team informed him that it had been 32 years since the Hoosiers last lost both of their annual games against their counterparts from Kentucky.

“I didn’t tell the guys that,” Shannon said. “I felt enough pressure with me knowing that.”

It turned out, he didn’t have to.

Friday night’s defeat and the ensuing team meeting left a mark on Indiana’s players, so much so that the Hoosiers were determined to atone for their poor effort a night earlier in Louisville.

Behind a game-high 22 points from Mr. Basketball Romeo Langford, Indiana dispatched Kentucky, 109-81, before an announced crowd of 8,266 on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“We didn’t want to be the team that went 0-2 vs. Kentucky,” Langford said. “That’s what got me and the team focused for tonight.”

Indiana now leads the all-time series 97-44.

From the earliest moments of the Indianapolis contest, it was clear that the rematch had the potential to be much different than the opener.

That started with Langford, who pulled up from the elbow and drained his first shot of the night 57 seconds into regulation. Langford went on to earn the game’s most outstanding player honors, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, 2-for-5 from beyond the arc and 6-for-7 from the free throw line.

“Making my first shot, seeing the ball go in was pretty cool,” said Langford, who struggled his way through Friday’s loss.

It was always true that Indiana had the more talented, more athletic roster in this matchup. Though it was a credit to Kentucky that the Bluegrass All-Stars were able to deliver more team-oriented results in the series opener.

Eventually, the Hoosiers caught on to the winning formula.

A 13-3 Indiana run carried the Hoosiers into the under-12 media timeout of the first half, at which point Michigan State signee Aaron Henry was in the midst of scoring eight consecutive points.

Langford took over from there, helping Indiana win the next four-minute segment, 11-3. The Indiana University signee finished the half with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists.

“Tonight, he looked a lot more tied in and he made some shots,” Kentucky coach Scott Chalk said. “When your confidence gets up and you get a lot more pep in your step, you play better.”

By the end of the first half, Indiana had outscored Kentucky 26-6 in the paint, 22-2 off turnovers and 19-6 off the break.

It all added up to a 26-point halftime lead for the Hoosiers.

“After last night, we knew exactly what we had to do after we had our team meeting,” said Indiana guard Eric Hunter, a Purdue signee. “We just had to come out with more energy and (that started) on the defensive end.”

Shannon and his staff opted to play a pack line defense on Saturday, offering more help in the gaps and applying more pressure on the ball. That approach led, in part, to Kentucky’s 11 first-half turnovers. Kentucky also shot merely 24 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range.

Guard Skyelar Potter posted a team-high 12 points for Kentucky. Bluegrass Mr. Basketball Trevon Faulkner added 11 points.

Shannon also changed his stance on substitution patterns. Instead of trying to get everyone in the game, the New Albany coach went with the hot hands.

Aaron and Mekhi Lairy each finished with 15 points. Hunter added 12 points and Damezi Anderson and Gavin Bizeau each posted 10 points.

Bloomington South’s Chance Coyle didn’t score, but grabbed two rebounds.

Indiana shot 57.5 from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc, leaving little doubt as to which was the better team Saturday.

“These guys came out to play tonight,” Shannon said.