BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Justin Smith matched his career high with 24 points and Al Durham added 21 on Tuesday, leading the Indiana Hoosiers to a 98-65 rout over Western Illinois.
Indiana has won 21 of its last 22 season openers while improving to 99-21 all-time in the first game.
Western Illinois (0-1) was led by Kobe Webster with 18 points and Zion Young with 12. The Leathernecks have lost all four in this series.
And the Hoosiers made it look easy after seizing control midway through the first half.
When Trayce Jackson-Davis made a 4-footer, the first basket of his career, and Durham followed that basket with a layup, the Hoosiers led 16-15. Over the next 3½, minutes, the Hoosiers scored basket after basket, forced turnover after turnover and used the 22-3 run to pull out to a 34-18 cushion.
Western Illinois never recovered as Indiana extended the lead to 46-22 before Kobe Webster closed out the first half by banking in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from just beyond midcourt at the half.
But the gap only widened as Indiana started the second half on a 9-2 run and it led by as much as 37.
Western Illinois: Summit League coaches picked the Leathernecks to finish fifth in the conference in their preseason poll. And that’s progress after finishing eighth last season. But Tuesday’s game demonstrates just how ground Western Illinois must make up to compete against stronger, deeper, more talented teams.
Indiana: The Hoosiers accomplished a lot in their opener. They dominated the game on offense and defense, started fast and when they got the chance to put this one away, they delivered the knockout blow. It’s a solid start.
Western Illinois: The Leathernecks shot 34.4% from the field and were 7 of 24 on 3s, 29.2%. … Western Illinois only committed four turnovers in the second half after having eight in the first half. … Indiana outrebounded he Leathernecks 47-28. … C.J. Duff left in the second half after appearing to injure a tooth. He scored eight points.
Indiana: Durham was 7 of 7 from the field, 3 of 3 on 3s and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. … Smith had seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. … Rob Phinisee scored 14 points and had three assists off the bench. … Graduate transfer Joey Brunk had 11 points and seven rebounds in his Hoosiers debut. … Indiana had a 58-22 scoring advantage in the paint.
For the second consecutive season, Indiana started two freshmen on opening night.
Last year, it was Romeo Langford and Rob Phinisee. This time it was Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin, who scored eight and five points, respectively.
Fans got to see some other new faces, too. Jerome Hunter, who redshirted when an injury kept him out all of last season, made his college debut. Hunter finished with seven points.
Guard Devonte Green sat out with an injured hamstring.
Western Illinois opens a four-game home-stand against Stetson on Saturday.
Indiana will chase its second straight win when Portland State comes to town Saturday for the first meeting between the schools.