BLOOMINGTON-Opportunity has knocked for Ben Allen, and it appears the 6’11” freshman is positioned to answer.
With D.J. White still sidelined with a broken foot and Sean Kline now ailing with a sore knee, Allen came off the bench to score 15 points in a season-high 23 minutes to help lead a sluggish Indiana team to a 79-63 win over Eastern Michigan in front of 17,169 at Assembly Hall.
Allen, who entered the game averaging just 4.0 points and eight minutes, was 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-3 behind the 3-point arc, while also adding a team-high five rebounds. That came on the heels of the Duke contest where he played just one minute and picked up two rebounds and a foul.
“I had to bounce back from the Duke game,” said Allen. “I was just thinking all week during practice before this game I have to get back and make a positive impact on this game.”
Allen’s effort was a key for an Indiana team that struggled to match the energy level it played with earlier in the week against Duke. Paced by 28 points and nine rebounds from 6-9, 260-pound forward John Bowler, Eastern Michigan (1-3) managed to keep the game within reach for most of the night. EMU trailed by eight at halftime and then closed the lead to as little as five, 52-47, with less than 15 minutes remaining. But Allen scored five points during an 8-0 Indiana run to push the lead to 13, and the Hoosiers pulled away and give IU Coach Mike Davis his 100th coaching victory at IU.
“Ben Allen, if he is 18 years old, he’s one of the best 18 years olds I’ve seen,” said Eastern Michigan Coach Charles Ramsey. “He’s fundamentally sound, can really shoot the ball, and he’ll get better.”
Davis says he’s already seen a great deal of progress in Allen, and he credited IU Associate Head Coach Kerry Rupp for the big man’s progress during his three months in Bloomington.
“Coach Rupp has done a great job with Ben,” said Davis. “When he got here he was just a catch and shoot guy. He played well tonight…really well.”
Allen’s playing time doesn’t figure to drop off anytime soon. Davis said after the game that Kline won’t play in Indiana’s game at Indiana State Tuesday, and he’s hoping to have the Huntington native ready to go for Kentucky next Saturday. But even when Kline is ready to contribute again, he’ll likely be limited in what he can do in practice.
“His knee is really sore,” said Davis. “ He probably practiced too much this week…if we can, we might cut back on his practice time. I’m going to have to do that to allow him to play.”
While Davis was pleased with the play of Allen and Robert Vaden (18 points, seven assists, four rebounds), there were a handful of things that concerned him, most notably the team’s energy level. The two players who appeared to draw the ire of the Hoosiers’ sixth-year coach were guards A.J. Ratliff and Earl Calloway, neither of whom played in the second half.
“We’re trying to get them to play the way we want them to play,” said Davis. “We have to have more intensity, we have to get loose balls. Both can help us and they will help us.”
Many expected some sort of letdown after Indiana’s loss to Duke Wednesday, but that didn’t keep Davis from sending a message with playing time.
“It’s just effort, and anytime you don’t give your best effort on the court he’s going to be pretty mad,” Vaden said about Davis. “That’s something we need to concentrate on.”
It marked the second straight disappointing effort for Ratliff since his return to the floor following surgery for a broken thumb. He scored two points on 1-of-4 shooting against Duke, and has played a combined 16 minutes in the last two games.
“(Ratliff’s) going to be a great player at IU and this year,” said Davis. “(But) until can get his timing and conditioning down and what we’re trying to do…they’ll have to earn their minutes.”
While there were issues to be addressed after the game, Davis was pleased that his 16th-ranked team was still able to emerge victorious for the fourth time in five tries.
“It’s nice to win by 16, and feel like, ‘what happened?’” said Davis. “This was a great game for us to have after playing such an emotional game.”
It was also a big win for Davis, reaching the 100-win mark in his sixth season as IU’s head coach.
“My wife says she was going to bake me a cake, if we won, and we won,” said Davis. “It feels good (to get the 100th win)…I’m proud of this team. They all shook my hand, even A.J. and Earl, so they still love me.”
Killingsworth 6-9 2-5 14, Vaden 7-14 2-2 18, Wilmont 3-8 0-0 8, Strickland 6-9 0-0 15, Monroe 0-2 1-2 1, Suhr 2-3 3-3 8, Ratliff 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 6-8 1-1 15, Calloway 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-54 9-13 79.
EASTERN MICHIGAN 63
Smith 2-2 1-2 5, Bowler 10-17 8-10 28, Knaub 0-3 2-2 2, Medlock 1-7 0-1 2, Freer 3-6 0-0 9, Matthews 0-1 0-0 0, McElhinny 2-7 2-3 8, Cashen 1-2 0-0 3, Gay 0-0 0-0 0, Vansolkema 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 21-48 13-18 63.
Halftime Score: Indiana 40, Eastern Michigan 32. 3-pointers: Indiana 10-25 (Killingsworth 0-1, Vaden 2-6, Wilmont 2-6, Strickland 3-5, Monroe 0-1, Suhr 1-2, Ratliff 0-1, Allen 2-3), Eastern Michigan 8-21 (Knaub 0-1, Medlock 0-4, Freer 3-5, McElhinny 2-7, Cashen 1-1, Vansolkema 2-3). Rebounds: Indiana 26 (Allen 5), Eastern Michigan 29 (Bowler 9). Assists: Indiana 22 (Vaden 7), Eastern Michigan 12 (Bowler 4, Medlock 4). Turnovers: Indiana 10 (Vaden 4), Eastern Michigan 17 (Medlock 5). Steals: Indiana 8 (Strickland 3), Eastern Michigan 4 (Smith 2). Officials: Tom Clark, Terry Wymer, Bill Daminski. Attendance: 17,169.