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Hoosiers' inside emphasis pays off

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Coach Mike Davis wanted Jeff Newton
more involved in the Indiana offense Saturday. So he built the game
plan around him.

Newton provided the inside force, scoring 25 points and grabbing
12 rebounds for his third straight double-double to lead the Hoosiers (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) past Illinois-Chicago 91-62.

"I talked to him yesterday and told him we were going to him on
the first five possessions," Davis said. "I'm not sure we did
that, but it got him going."

Newton was the primary reason Indiana was too strong and
powerful for Illinois-Chicago (2-2).

The Hoosiers (6-0) dominated the middle, especially defensively.
They finished with eight blocks, four from Newton, and outrebounded
the Flames 48-40. The bulk of the blocks came early from Newton and
George Leach, intimidating the Flames and taking them out of their
game.

Indiana, usually reliant on its 3-point shooting, exploited the
inside. Illinois-Chicago, which wanted to go inside, was forced to
play a perimeter game that didn't work.

"If we were afraid initially, then when they started blocking
shots and being that strong, it didn't help," Flames coach Jimmy
Collins said. "We allowed Newton to have his best game."

Davis has said throughout the season that Newton's play is a
critical component for the Hoosiers, who lost Big Ten player of the
year Jared Jeffries to the NBA last season. On Saturday, Newton
demonstrated why.

He was 8-of-16 from the field and 9-of-13 from the free throw
line, despite hurting his neck midway through the second half. By
going to him early, Davis figured it would get Newton's attention.
It did.

"Coach told me he was going to run the first five plays for me,
so I wanted to go to the hole and convert," Newton said.

Newton's inside play was helped by the Hoosiers resurgent
outside game.

After shooting just 29.9 percent against defending national
champion Maryland in a rematch of last year's title game Tuesday,
Indiana was better Saturday. The Hoosiers shot 45.3 percent and
connected on 7-of-15 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. Guard
Bracey Wright scored 16 points, and guard Tom Coverdale had 14.

The Flames were overmatched by the combination without Cedrick
Banks, who missed his fourth straight game after the NCAA declared
him academically ineligible. He could return Monday against
Samford.

Banks' absence certainly hurt the Flames, an NCAA Tournament
team last year. Center Joe Scott led Illinois-Chicago with 12
points, while guard Martell Bailey finished with five points - 11
fewer than his average.

"We got out of our game plan," Bailey said. "We got to
running and we weren't focused for the whole 40 minutes."

The Hoosiers didn't have that problem.

They took a 16-4 lead, with Illinois-Chicago managing just two
baskets in the game's first five minutes.

Indiana used a 7-0 run late in the first half to take a 42-26
lead at the break, and pulled away with a 14-3 run that made it
62-39 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Illinois-Chicago never threatened again and trailed by as much
as 89-59 with 1:58 to go.

It was just what Davis wanted.

"We need Newton to have an inside presence for us," Davis
said. "I think he's getting better game-by-game. He's not played
this role at Indiana before, so I've got to make a conscious effort
to pass it to him."