Behind the play of highly touted freshman Eric Gordon, Indiana hasn’t had much trouble putting the ball in the basket this season.
After playing their first three games at home, the eighth-ranked Hoosiers go on the road for the first time this season on Friday when they meet Illinois State in the semifinals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
The Hoosiers (3-0) have breezed through their first three opponents, averaging 98.0 points and winning by 20 or more in each contest. Gordon has been the star so far, averaging 28.0 points while shooting 61.0 percent from the field, including 58.3 percent from 3-point range.
Gordon had 30 points Tuesday in the second round of the tournament to lead Indiana to a 95-71 win over North Carolina-Wilmington. He shot 8-for-12 from the field and added a season-high six assists to go with three steals.
While Indiana is shooting 58.0 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from beyond the arc, coach Kelvin Sampson has been focusing on his team’s defensive play. The Hoosiers forced 26 turnovers Tuesday.
“I thought it was a really good defensive performance by us and getting to the free throw line 28 times is another sign that we are attacking,” he said. “We are getting so much offense off our defense right now and this is something we were not doing earlier in the year.”
The Hoosiers fell behind 18-8 early Tuesday, but forced 17 turnovers in the first half and led 52-32 at the break.
“Once we decided to start playing, we turned the game around,” said guard Armon Bassett, who had 19 points despite being limited in the second half with cramps. “I think there’s more of an offensive swagger to this team and we need more of a defensive swagger.”
Illinois State also remains undefeated after three games following its 89-73 win over UNCW on Sunday. Osiris Eldridge scored a season-high 30 points to lead the Redbirds.
Illinois State trailed 53-43 early in the second half, but went on a 15-4 run and never trailed again. Dom Johnson scored 17 points and Anthony Slack added 15 for the Redbirds.
Eldridge, the team’s leading scorer at 21.7 points, was 10-of-15 from the field, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. He scored eight points in the Redbirds’ season opener, but had 27 the next game and was named the Missouri Valley Conference player of the week on Monday.
The Redbirds are second in the conference with 83.0 points and 49.7 percent field-goal shooting. They shot a season-high 51.7 percent against the Seahawks.
Indiana has won all three matchups with the Redbirds, but the teams haven’t met since 1988.