BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Mike Davis was more concerned with getting the Indiana Hoosiers back in sync than achieving another personal milestone Saturday night. He accomplished both.
After pleading with his team to be more careful on offense, the 17th-ranked Hoosiers followed Davis’ plan perfectly.
Robert Vaden scored 18 points, freshman Ben Allen added a career-high 15 and the Hoosiers shot 55.6 percent from the field, including 9-of-13 on 3-pointers, as they got past Eastern Michigan 79-63 for Davis’ 100th career win.
“It really feels good,” Davis said. “I wished it had happened last year, but I’m really proud of this basketball team and everyone shook my hand.”
Davis had to wait until Saturday to became the fourth Indiana coach, and the second-fastest in school history, to 100 wins after losing earlier this week to No. 1 Duke. Only Bob Knight made it to 100 wins quicker, achieving the feat in his fifth season. Davis is in the sixth season of a tenure that has seen him endure the torment of losing seasons and critics who thought he couldn’t measure up to Knight.
Everett Dean (162) and Branch McCracken (364) are the only other Indiana coaches to win 100.
But Davis focused more on helping his players cope with rebounding after an emotional loss to the Blue Devils.
At practice, Vaden said, Davis emphasized taking care of the basketball and settling down quicker. The result: Indiana (4-1) didn’t come out with the same passion it had against Duke, especially early although it did play with more precision.
“He wanted us to play calm,” Vaden said. “That was something we did a little better tonight.”
The Hoosiers had to contend with other problems Saturday.
Eastern Michigan’s big man, John Bowler, controlled the interior by scoring a career-high 28 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He had little help, though. Nick Freer, the Eagles’ next-highest scorer, had nine points—not nearly enough to prevent Eastern Michigan (1-3) from losing its third straight under new coach Charles Ramsey.
“This is one of the places you want to go because it’s kind of like the Mecca,” Bowler said. “I think we handled pressure pretty and we got over our nerves and jitters right away.”
Bowler’s presence forced the Hoosiers to adjust.
Instead of relying on Marco Killingsworth, as they have done frequently this season, Vaden, Allen and Marshall Strickland balanced the scoring attack. Strickland finished with 15 points. Killingsworth had 14.
The surprise was the emergence of Allen, a little-used player this season. He connected on 6-of-8 shots, including two 3-pointers, and gave the Hoosiers a big lift after losing forward Sean Kline to a knee injury. Kline missed Saturday’s game with a sore knee and is expected to miss Tuesday’s game at Indiana State, too.
But Allen proved he was more than capable by scoring the final five points in a the Hoosiers’ decisive 8-0 run midway through the second half. That gave Indiana a 60-47 lead and control of the game.
“He can really shoot the ball, and he’s only going to get better,” Ramsey said. “I think the only problem coach Davis may have is finding playing time for him because they have some players.”
Eastern Michigan did what it could to keep the Hoosiers from playing their up-tempo style. They slowed the pace by running down the shot clock and then working inside to Bowler.
For most of the night it worked.
After Indiana broke to an early 16-8 lead, the Eagles charged back. Danny McElhinny’s 3-pointer with 7:03 left in the half cut the lead to 25-24.
The Hoosiers answered with Allen’s three-point play and back-to-back 3-pointers from Vaden and Allen to rebuild a 34-27 lead, then got a four-point play from Errek Suhr in the final seconds to make it 40-32 at the half.
When it appeared Indiana might pull away early in the second half after Roderick Wilmont’s back-to-back 3s made it 50-36, Eastern Michigan again rallied. The Eagles used an 11-2 run to close to 52-47.
But Allen responded by cutting for a layup and then hitting a 3 to close the 8-0 run that gave Indiana a 13-point lead with 10:49 remaining.
Eastern Michigan never got closer than nine the rest of the way, and afterward the Hoosiers’ celebrated Davis’ achievement.
“Everyone shook my hand, even A.J. (Ratliff) and Earl (Calloway), so they still love me,” Davis said, referring to two players who sat on the bench for the final 20 minutes. “It does feel really good, though.”