BLOOMINGTON— Indiana continued its roll right through the small-school portion of its schedule Friday night — and it’s finally ready to start play in the rugged Big Ten.
Jordan Hulls scored a season-high 20 points, Cody Zeller added 16 and the fifth-ranked Hoosiers cruised past Jacksonville 93-59 in their final non-conference game.
The Hoosiers (12-1) have won three straight, all by at least 34 points.
Jacksonville (5-8) was led by Dylan Fritsch with 15 points and Jarvis Haywood with nine, but lost for the fourth time this season to a power-conference school. The Dolphins have now dropped four of their last six overall.
It certainly wasn’t pretty.
For the second time this season, the Hoosiers struggled after a prolonged break. Two weeks ago, they lost to then-unranked Butler in their second game in 14 days.
On Friday, after taking a week off for Christmas, Indiana started sluggishly again. This time, the nation’s highest-scoring team and second-best shooting team missed its first four shots and turned the ball over four times on its first eight possessions before finally settling down, taking the lead and eventually pulling away.
The Hoosiers couldn’t even get Zeller to bail them out of that funk. The 7-foot center went to the bench with three points and three rebounds after drawing his second foul with 9:08 left in the half. He picked up two more fouls in the first eight minutes of the second half and padded his stats with a late scoring flurry — after the game was already in hand.
So the Hoosiers turned to their outside shooters.
Hulls got things started with a 3-pointer midway through the first half to make it 24-17, and when the 9-2 run ended, with Yogi Ferrell’s steal and 15-foot pull-up jumper, the Hoosiers led 30-19.
Hulls followed with three straight 3s in the final 90 seconds, finishing the half with 17 points and five 3s as the Hoosiers took a 48-33 lead at the break.
That was all the short-handed Hoosiers needed on this night. Indiana played again without injured forward Austin Etherington, injured guard Maurice Creek and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who missed his third straight game as the Hoosiers and the NCAA look into a compliance issue. Athletic director Fred Glass made the announcement in a statement less than an hour before tip-off.
Fortunately for Indiana, it didn’t need any extra bodies to get past the outsized and overmatched Dolphins.
An 11-3 run early in the second half made it 63-41 and Jacksonville never got closer than 21 the rest of the way.
Five Indiana players finished in double figures.