SYRACUSE, N.Y. – After falling behind by 10 points at the outset against No. 4 Syracuse, Indiana coach Tom Crean had his Hoosiers right where he wanted at halftime – down by just two baskets.
Then he went into the locker room and didn’t like what he heard from his youthful Hoosiers – silence.
Frankly, the halftime locker room for a team that had come on the road with the fourth-ranked team in the country and was going toe-to-toe with them, I read it right there, Crean said following Syracuse’s 69-52 win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday night.
I don’t know if it’s the inexperience. I don’t know if it’s the anxiety. I don’t know if there were too many guys that didn’t believe they could win the game. I don’t know if the guys were shocked that we were in the game, but that was as poor a second half performance spirit-wise ... that I’ve been a part of in a long time.
The Orange (8-0) used a 12-0 spurt to break open a tie game and extended the surge to 25-4 behind their backcourt of Trevor Cooney and freshman Tyler Ennis, who combined for 38 points, nine assists and eight steals.
After Indiana’s Noah Vonleh tied it at 33 early in the second half, Syracuse began its run to take command and incite the crowd.
Dajuan Coleman started it with a putback and Cooney followed with a steal and 3-pointer, then went 3 of 3 from the free throw line after being fouled on another 3-point attempt.
C.J. Fair’s driving layup with 13:18 left gave the Orange a 45-33 lead. Ennis had three steals during the spurt and the Orange forced the Hoosiers into a shot-clock violation as they could muster nothing offensively.
I’ve never been part of a game where a team was as different in one half as they were in the other, Crean said.
The first half, after getting down 10-0, we started to play the game the way we practiced, the way we prepared. We wanted to get the ball inside. We had their front line in foul trouble. We were getting to the foul line. We were right where we needed to be.
We wanted to continue to build on what we were doing in the first half and we couldn’t have been more opposite. Three of our first four shots were 3s. We got away from what was working. We let them get momentum.
Indiana (6-2) had only lost, 59-58, to No. 12 Connecticut at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
Ennis hit a 3 and had a steal and layup, and Cooney followed with a 3 to boost the lead to 53-36 midway through the second half. Seconds later, Cooney was slammed into the stanchion on a fast break by Austin Etherington, drawing a flagrant foul on the play.
Because it’s Indiana, it’s kind of like a rivalry, and they’re a really good team, said Cooney, who scored 21 points. We wanted to come out and prove to everyone that we’re a good team.
Indiana shot 15 of 41 (36.6 percent) and was 6 of 13 from the field in the second half in getting outscored 36-23.
The first three, four possessions. I’m not a big believer in the first 5 minutes, but this one was, Crean said. This is one of those games where the first few possessions were going to be absolutely crucial in the second half, and they were. And it totally went the other way. I’m unbelievably disappointed in the lack of fight in the second half.
Vonleh had 17 points for the Hoosiers, 13 from the free throw line, and Yogi Ferrell added 12 points, only three in the second half – a 3-pointer with 1:59 remaining.