BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana learned one lesson over the holiday break -- don't toy with opponents.
On Saturday night, the Hoosiers made sure coach Kelvin Sampson's message paid off.Eric Gordon was back in sync, D.J. White dominated the middle and the Hoosiers (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) used two early scoring runs to overwhelm Chicago State 97-59 in their final tuneup before starting Big Ten play."One thing coach emphasized all week was the slow starts and defense," White said. "We wanted to start better. Starting the game fast was a big focus for us."Mission accomplished.One week after an inexplicably sluggish performance against Coppin State, the Hoosiers (11-1) played like a different team.Gordon scored 22 points, White had 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and the Hoosiers dominated Chicago State in every facet. Indiana finished with a 56-26 rebounding edge, blocked 11 shots, had 11 steals and forced 18 turnovers.But the first half was more impressive. The Hoosiers had 12 offensive rebounds, three on the game's first possession, and built a 48-19 lead despite shooting 34.2 percent from the field.Indiana has won seven straight and 26 in a row at Assembly Hall where it has been unbeatable since Sampson joined the program last season. Sampson is 24-0 at home since coming to Bloomington and is within one win of tying Branch McCracken's school record for most consecutive home victories at the start of a career. McCracken was 25-0 from 1938-41.Sampson was more satisfied with his team's effort, though."Our defense was really, really good the first 20 minutes," he said. "We dominated every phase in the first 20 minutes of the game."Indiana's fast start also created embarrassing moments for Chicago State (4-12), losers of four straight.David Holston, the 5-foot-8 guard who is one of the nation's top scorers, finished with 25 points but got little help from his teammates. John Cantrell, with 11 points, was the only other Chicago State in double figures.Coach Benjy Taylor struggled for an explanation, using early timeouts and the halftime break to sort it out. Nothing worked."We were a little overwhelmed to start the game for some reason, I don't know why," he said. "They made shots early and then they started getting to the offensive glass and that was kind of the downward motion for us. We weren't able to compete with them on the glass at all. We were just too small, too weak and not aggressive enough."It didn't take long to dissect.After grabbing three straight offensive rebounds to open the game, White finished a three-point play, then hit back-to-back 3s and got a breakaway dunk from Armon Bassett to make it 11-0 less than 90 seconds into the game. Taylor called a timeout.Meanwhile, Chicago State was in disarray.It had an air ball, a near air ball, missed a fast break layup and then had another fast break broken up when Gordon knocked away the entry pass -- all in the first three minutes.Things were about to get much worse for the Cougars.On Indiana's next possession, Kevin Jones drew a foul and after White missed the first free throw, Holston was called for a technical foul. And with 8:15 left in the half, Indiana led 35-9.Not enough?Late in the first half, Chicago State had as many fouls (11) as points, and by halftime, the Cougars were just 2-of-19 from 2-point range and had been outrebounded 36-15 with White already recording a double-double.The only remaining question was how lopsided it would get."I thought their goal tonight was to really get the ball inside," Taylor said. "If they didn't, they tried to move the ball, get it reversed and get a good shot and they did that."Indiana extended its lead to 30 early in the second half, led by as much as 39 and never let Chicago State get close on a night that Bassett returned after a three-game suspension for violating team rules.Bassett, the Hoosiers starting point guard, finished with 13 points and five rebounds in his first action since Dec. 3.But to Sampson it was all about focus, something Indiana lacked a week ago."That's the hardest we've played, and that's always the goal," he said. "We're getting better. I'm the coach of the team, not an observer, and I can tell you, we've improved."