If Eric Gordon’s debut was any indication of what’s to come, Indiana and its star freshman might be able to meet the high expectations surrounding the team this season.
The eighth-ranked Hoosiers hope Gordon can help lead them to another victory when they host Longwood on Sunday as part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
One of the nation’s top recruits last season, the Indianapolis native lived up to the hype in his much-anticipated college opener, scoring 33 points with six rebounds and four assists in Indiana’s 99-79 win over Chattanooga on Monday.
“If he plays like he did tonight, we’ll be OK,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He’s going to play hard every night, and the thing I like is that he practices at the same pace every day. When I was (a graduate assistant) at Michigan State, Magic Johnson was like that. There’s a reason those guys are good.”
Gordon scored the most points by an Indiana player in their debut, topping the 26 scored by George McGinnis in a 99-82 win over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 1, 1970.
“They should have given out posters,” Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. “I’d get mine autographed. He was terrific. I had no answer.”
The Hoosiers, though, were fortunate the 6-foot-4 guard didn’t succumb to any opening-night jitters. His consistency on both ends of the court helped the preseason Big Ten favorites overcome a 50-46 halftime deficit.
Gordon had three steals and his strong perimeter defense helped the Hoosiers pull away in the second half. Offensively, he was 9-for-15 from the field and 7-for-11 from 3-point range. He made a long 3 to highlight a 13-6 second-half run that helped secure the victory.
“I thought I played pretty good,” Gordon said. “I just tried to step up in different situations and so did a lot of other players on our team.”
Point guard Armon Bassett had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, while senior forward D.J. White had 17 points. White cut his left eye after falling to the floor, but is expected to play Sunday.
“D.J.’s fine, he’s going to be all right,” Bassett said.
Indiana looks for its 12th straight win over an unranked, non-conference opponent at home Sunday in its first meeting with Longwood (2-1).
The Lancers are playing their first season as a Division I member and are coming off an 89-67 home win over Virginia-Wise on Thursday.
Junior forward Kirk Williams had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Lancers, who will play as an independent this season. Williams is averaging 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds.
The Virginia school is 0-4 against ranked opponents, but hasn’t played one since losing 90-77 to then-No. 4 Villanova on Dec. 10, 2005.
“We will certainly be looking forward to the challenge of going to Indiana and taking on the Hoosiers,” Longwood coach Mike Gillian said. “We always want to give our guys the opportunity to compete against some of the best competition in the country and this game is just that.”