BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — If Indiana’s current three-game stretch has taught the Hoosiers anything, it’s that no lead is safe.
Just when it looked like Indiana was going to put their foot on the gas Friday night and turn a large second-half lead into an emphatic, no-contest victory for the first time in their last three tries, UNC Greensboro stormed back.
Indiana (5-1) led by as many as 22 points in the second half, before UNC Greensboro (1-5) cut the lead to just six in the final moments of the game, with Indiana holding on for a 87-79 victory over the Spartans. The Spartans outscored Indiana 45-37 in the second half.
This follows back-to-back games in which Indiana had double-digits leads erased in the second half, including Indiana’s loss to Eastern Washington on Monday, in which the Hoosiers led by as many as 12 in the second half.
After leading 50-34 at half, Indiana pulled to their largest lead early in the second half at 56-34.
Perimeter defense continued to be an issue for the Hoosiers though, as the Spartans wouldn’t go away, hanging around with hot shooting from behind the arc. The Spartans shot 14 of 23 from distance, hitting 7 of 9 in the second half.
Twelve of the Spartans’ 14 3-pointers came from Nicholas Paulos and Clay Byrd, with each knocking down six. Paulos finished with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and Byrd finished with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
A defensive lapse by Hoosiers with 10:10 remaining in the second half led to an open 3 for the Spartans early in the shot clock, cutting the Hoosier lead to 12. Troy Williams turned it over on Indiana’s next possession, leading to a drive and score by UNC Greensboro’s Tevon Saddler, pulling the Spartans within 10 at 69-59 with 9:38 remaining and forcing a timeout by Indiana.
And, for the third straight game, the Hoosiers found themselves in a close contest down the stretch.
Clutch free throw shooting late by James Blackmon Jr. and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell kept the came out of reach.
Blackmon led Indiana with 25 points and nine rebounds. Ferrell finished with 15 points and six assists.
Indiana: Freshman James Blackmon Jr. was one shy of his career high, and has now scored twenty or more points in four of his first six games as a Hoosier.
UNC Greensboro: Leading scorer RJ White, who is averaging 16.2 points per game for the Spartans, was held scoreless on the night, taking just two shots in 14 minutes of action.
Indiana: Hosts Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
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