- Junior Alex Young scored a game-high 31 points and senior Leroy Nobles added 23 as IUPUI knocked off Oakland, 100-88 inside Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday night. Young's 31 were one shy of a career-high as the silky smooth lefty hit 11-of-20 shots and grabbed nine boards.
The big question going into its game was whether IUPUI could control preseason Summit League player of the year Keith Benson.
Whistles helped slow Benson though as he fouled out in just 18 minutes work.
With NBA scouts in attendance, the reigning Summit League Player of the Year went to the bench for good with 9:36 left, and the Jaguars took advantage of Oakland's lack of defense in the paint to knock off the previously undefeated Golden Grizzlies.
"This was a great win for us," IUPUI Head Coach Ron Hunter said. "We executed our game plan tonight, even when we got behind early. We did a good job of sticking to the script and playing our game. I'm just excited because I see my team getting better each time we take the floor.
"Oakland's the best team in our league and the other nine teams know that. They're wearing the bulls-eye on their back and the rest of us are trying to get to that level. But we knew coming in that we'd have to take care of home court and get this win. I'm proud of my guys and we're going to enjoy this tonight, but we've got to be ready to go back to work."
IUPUI (15-10, 9-3 Summit) scored 58 of their points in the paint, and outrebounded Oakland 40-31. Hamilton led Oakland with 23 points, while Benson had 11 points, six boards and a blocked shot.If there was any doubt how important Benson was to the Golden Grizzlies, they were quickly wiped away when the 6-foot-11 pivot got his third foul with just over seven minutes left in the first half. Oakland led by 11 points early in the half and was still up by six when he went to the bench after picking up his third personal. With him sidelined, the Jaguars took advantage, thanks to the play of Young and Stephen Thomas and led 41-40 going into the half.
"He's their best defensive player," Young said. "Once you can get him out of the lane, that's a huge deal because he's a seven-footer. Once he got into foul trouble, we knew we weren't going to be taking anymore jump shots. We needed to try and get to the basket, get some easy points in the paint, and that worked out for us."
Nobles disagreed with his teammate on Benson's role in IUPUI's success.
"It was really just a mindset," Nobles said. "We went to the rack and got Alex the ball. He's one of the best players in the country I feel like, and it showed in the game."
The Jaguars dominated the paint so well that they ended up attempting just a season-low seven three-point shots. Nobles swished a three on IUPUI's first offensive trip of the game, but the Jaguars were 0-for-6 from deep the rest of the night.
As the Jaguars leading scorer, Young felt it was his responsibility to lead his team to a victory, especially when Hunter told him to go "win it for us."
"This was a big game for us to try and get a two seed (in the conference tournament)," Young said. "For us to be at our best, I have to play well. When Coach said that, I knew I would have to have the ball, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I would like the ball in the final seconds. I just knew I had to play smart and at the same time be aggressive and we came out on top."In the second half with Benson playing tentatively due to his foul trouble, the Jaguars went on a 15-4 run to bust the game open. Christian Siakam was integral in the run, swiping the boards clean and dominating inside, scoring six of his 16 in the opening 2:12 of the half.
"Christian is getting better every single game," Young said. "We always joke with him because he got his eye poked at Western Illinois and since then, he's been a changed man. He hasn't been playing that long, but he is playing better and becoming a key component to our offense and defense."
Nobles agreed with Young on Siakam's performance.
"I tell Christian every practice that he is our big man," Nobles said. "Everybody else gets the notoriety, but if you come to our practices, you will see him going hard against everybody."
Siakam made 8-of-12 shots and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Nobles also had a solid game after an uncharacteristically cold night against IPFW. He felt that he really wanted to get after it right away against Oakland.
"I felt that I really had an off night on Thursday, so I was really looking to regroup and not force as many shots up," Nobles said. "I wanted to be more aggressive and as you can see it turned out well with me shooting fourteen free throws."
Nobles also ended up making four free throws in a row with 11.8 seconds left when Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe was issued two technical fouls and ejected from the game.
IUPUI hit 29-of-34 (85.3 percent) from the charity stripe and 56.5 percent from the field. Thomas matched his careeer-high with 19 points and John Ashworth chipped in six points off the bench. Conversely, Oakland (17-9, 12-1 Summit) hit 47 percent from the floor and was just 4-of-7 at the foul line. The Golden Grizzlies were 14-of-36 from three as redshirt freshman Travis Bader tallied 15 on five threes. Both Larry Wright and Drew Valentine scored 10 each.
"We made them a jump shooting basketball team," Hunter said. "Up there, they beat us from behind the three-point line. We wanted them to take a lot of challenged threes, rather than pound it inside against us."
IUPUI will return to action on Thursday when it travels to Brookings, S.D. to take on South Dakota State. The Jaguars rallied to beat the Jackrabbits 81-76 on Jan. 15 in The Jungle. The game is slated to tip at 8:00 p.m. with pregame coverage with Scott McCauley (play-by-play) slated to begin at approximately 7:55.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times