INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Heytvelt and Jeremy Pargo taught Indiana’s youngsters a few lessons about what it takes to win.
Patience, discipline, composure. No. 5 Gonzaga had all of those elements Saturday; Indiana did not.
After an uncharacteristically slow start, Heytvelt and Pargo warmed up to score 17 and 13 points, respectively, and the Zags’ full-court pressure forced turnover after turnover as they finally pulled away to a 70-54 victory.
“We needed to experience how to win an ugly grinder, and we did that,” Zags coach Mark Few said.
Still, it was a surprising twist.
The Zags (6-0) were a heavy favorite against a short-handed, inexperienced Indiana team that had lost to two top 20 teams by 38 and 35 points before facing another in the Hall of Fame Showcase. The Hoosiers were also playing a little more than an hour from its campus in Bloomington in the first basketball game at Lucas Oil Stadium, a future Final Four site.
But the deep backgrounds and early start time caused problems for Gonzaga, which shot 31 percent during the first 10 minutes of the game. And instead of exploiting their size advantage inside, the Zags settled for errant jumpers.
So just before halftime, Few improvised. He called on his players to pressure Indiana late in the first half, and while it settled down Gonzaga, it rattled Indiana.
The Hoosiers finally wore down, got into foul trouble and, thanks primarily to Heytvelt, wound up getting outscored in the paint 46-10. Heytvelt was 6-of-12 from the field, had six rebounds and was named the game’s MVP.
“Coming to a place to play that’s a neutral court but it’s so close to their home, that motivates you to play well,” Heytvelt said.
But, clearly, it wasn’t the performance Few — or anyone else — expected.
Gonzaga was 13-of-22 from the free-throw line and essentially fought to a draw on the glass. It didn’t make a 3-pointer until 28 minutes into the game and failed to put the Hoosiers away until the last five minutes.
“They played to win and with a very strong mind-set,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We’ve got to build on it and continue to get better, and there are so many things for us to improve on. The speed of the game is still our No. 1 Achilles’ heel.”
Gonzaga made sure of it.
After getting the Hoosiers frazzled in the closing minutes of the first half, Indiana opened the second half with four straight turnovers. The Zags converted those into six straight points to end a 10-0 run, and suddenly the Hoosiers went from a 25-24 deficit to trailing 35-24 with 18:05 to play.
It was the only big run Gonzaga had Saturday and the only one they really needed.
Indiana couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.
Part of the Hoosiers’ problem was shooting. Indiana finished at 30.4 percent for the game, and with forward Tom Pritchard in foul trouble most of the day, the Hoosiers relied mostly on outside shots to stay close.
Devan Dumes had 15 points to lead the Hoosiers, while Malik Story added 14 and Pritchard finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
The difference was obvious to everyone.
“They’re young,” Few said. “They just don’t have quite as many horses as they’ve had in the past.”
They were down another one Saturday because freshman guard Verdell Jones, one of nine scholarship players, missed his second straight game. Jones was knocked out of last Sunday’s game after running into a pick and was taken off the court on a stretcher.
Yet the Hoosiers were still tied it at 19 late in the first half before Gonzaga went on an 8-3 run and then turned up the pressure.
When Indiana got out of sync, and Crean had to call a flurry of timeouts, the Zags remained composed and pulled ahead with a safe cushion they never gave back.
“The key to a game, any game, is taking what the defense gives you,” Crean said. “They’re very, very long and very, very athletic. The bottom line is they wouldn’t be that successful if they didn’t play good defense.”