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Indiana University

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Evansville’s Blake Simmons and Indiana’s Austin Etherington battle for a rebound in the first half Tuesday.

IU’s defense smokes Purple Aces

Hoosiers stifle high-scoring Evansville team

– Indiana cooled down one of the hottest-shooting teams in the nation in a hurry Monday.

The Hoosiers held Evansville, which entered the game shooting 56.6 percent from the field, to less than 30 percent from the field in a 77-46 win at Assembly Hall.

“The numbers were very high, and very real,” IU coach Tom Crean said of the Purple Aces, who came in scoring 90.2 points per game. “We were absolutely committed to doing the best job we could do defensively, and I thought we got off to a great start.”

IU (6-1) held off a Purple Aces team that had four players averaging in double-figures entering the matchup.

Evansville (5-1) had just four players with more than five points in the blowout loss.

The game started on an unexpected note.

Crean went with walk-on forward Jeff Howard as a starter over sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell. The senior had two points, a career-high three rebounds, and an assist in 10 minutes in the first half, while Hollowell came off the bench for eight points in the first half.

The 6-foot-8 swingman finished with a career high of 18 points in just 17 minutes after being pulled from the starting lineup for the first time in the regular season.

“I’m seeing the extra work pay off with my jump shot,” said Hollowell, who hit two 3-pointers and a couple more jumpers. “I’ve been getting up a lot of reps.”

The Purple Aces shot just 25.9 percent from the floor in the first half, and D. J. Balentine – who shot 59.4 percent from the field and 65.2 percent from beyond the arc entering the matchup – was 2 for 10 from the floor with six points.

Balentine, who averaged 29.6 points per game for Evansville, finished with just 14 and went 5 for 17 from the field.

“We didn’t want to allow them to come in here and match the numbers that they’ve been putting up,” said Howard, who finished with a career-high 15 minutes after his first career start. “We couldn’t let them get open shots.”

The Hoosiers started the game on a 12-0 run, and Evansville was 2 for 17 at one point late in the first half. However, the Purple Aces picked it up and went 5 for 10 to close out the half and cut a 20-point deficit with 5:30 left to 14 at halftime.

But Evansville pulled no closer than 11 in the second half as the IU defense continued to smother the Purple Aces.

Freshman Noah Vonleh earned his fifth career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Hoosiers outrebounded Evansville 58-30, including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points.

IU also tallied seven blocks, 41 bench points and hit more free throws (25) than Evansville attempted (22).

“We got good production from every position,” Crean said.

“That’s the most important thing.”

smorrison@jg.net

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