The Gee-Gees men’s basketball team spent a day and a half in the heart of Hoosier land with locals telling them ‘good luck’ with a sympathetic smile. Ottawa then spent a solid chunk of tonight’s game at Assembly Hall giving a crowd of 17,302 crimson and cream clad supporters a nervous energy, sticking with the no. 15 ranked Hoosiers until the final eight minutes of the game slipped away. On the strength of 49 per cent field goal shooting and 15 extra possessions, Indiana claimed an 82-54 win.
Caleb Agada finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Gee-Gees in both categories. It was a tough shooting night for Ottawa, with many quality looks from long range missing the mark. The Gee-Gees went 5-of-26 from beyond the arc and no player hit more than one three-ball.
Offensive rebounds and big centre man Thomas Bryant hurt Ottawa early, lifting Indiana to an 11-4 lead. The Hoosiers pushed the pace, not allowing Ottawa to get comfortable, and extended the lead to 17-5 before Plunkett knocked down Ottawa’s first trey of the evening at the 5:30 mark.
The Gee-Gees turned things around and stormed back with greater strength at both ends of the floor, fighting through the lengthy and active Hoosier post players to get into the paint. A pair of free throws from Agada cut the lead to 35-31 with 3:10 to play in the first half, and the teams went into the locker rooms with Indiana ahead 40-32.
“I thought our toughness shone through there,” noted head coach James Derouin. “We were able to get some stops, especially getting some defensive rebounds over their size. We went into halftime feeling pretty good because we didn’t feel we had played that well and we still felt like we were in striking distance."
The lead hovered around the ten-point mark for much of what would have constituted the third quarter. Mehdi Tihani lifted Ottawa with a big three-pointer with nine minutes to play which cut the lead to 57-51. The Hoosiers answered right back with an energy play by Yogi Ferrell, a put-back inside, and back-to-back threes which brought the lead back to 65-51 with 7:24 to play.
That momentum change proved pivotal as the Gee-Gees could not respond. With the double-digit lead re-established, Indiana slowed things down and showed their control. Four players finished in double-digit scoring for Indiana, led by James Blackman Jr. with 15. Byrant recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, six of which were at the offensive end.
“They were coming at us in waves on the glass,” said Derouin, who also emphasized that his team did create quality looks on the offensive end. “We aren’t down very often by 15 or 20 points, and the big question is how are you going to respond. We had one good push back, but we need to follow that through."
The Gee-Gees will return to Ottawa early Wednesday morning to prepare for the regular season opener on Friday, November 6 against the Nipissing Lakers. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.