BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Emmitt Holt never doubted himself. He just had to persevere.
On Tuesday night, a little more than one month after he hit teammate Devin Davis with a car, injuring Davis’s head, the freshman forward showed Hoosiers fans how far he’s come. With Davis watching from behind the Hoosiers’ bench, Holt scored a season high 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two blocks, leading the Hoosiers past Pittsburgh 81-69 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Holt was suspended for two exhibition games and the first two regular season games after the accident, which police determined was not his fault. And he spent most of his free time contemplating how to forgive himself.
“I see him (Holt) out there playing hard and I see Devin there, who wants to play so bad,” coach Tom Crean said, pausing several times to fight back tears. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s just got to continue to grow.”
Nobody had seen Holt play this well until Tuesday. He went 6 of 6 from the field and 3 of 4 four from the free-throw line in 19 minutes.
He also had plenty of help from his coaches and teammates along the way, trying to help him through his emotional times off of the court.
They were still helping out against Pittsburgh (4-3).
Freshman James Blackmon Jr. finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had 11 points and four assists. Troy Williams had 10 points and five rebounds and teamed with Holt to dominate the middle. Indiana (6-1) shot 54.1 percent from the field, compared with a season-low 36.1 percent for the Panthers, and the Hoosiers had a 48-28 scoring advantage in the paint.
“Great kid, great person. Comes from a great family,” guard Nick Zeisloft said of Holt. “We could really see early that we were going to have a great teammate and he was always going to have our back, no matter what situation we were in.”
He sure did Tuesday as Indiana won its second straight.
Pittsburgh was led by Chris Jones with 18 points and Josh Newkirk with 16, not nearly enough in a game that the Panthers only led twice — 2-0 and 4-2.
“Indiana played well and deserved to win and we simply didn’t do the things we wanted to do, from start to finish, I thought,” coach Jamie Dixon said.
Indiana started seizing control midway through the first half, pulling out to a 36-23 lead,
Pittsburgh cut the deficit to 47-41 early in the second half, but Blackmon’s driving layup and Zeisloft’s 3-pointer spurred a 13-4 run that extended the margin to 60-45. Indiana pushed the lead to as much as 23 before Pittsburgh’s final charge got them as close as 10 twice.
“From then to now I think I’ve made tremendous progress,” Holt said, acknowledging talking about his long journey back from the accident. “These guys, my teammates, they just helped me along the way.”
Pittsburgh: After spending last week in Hawaii, the Panthers’ played sluggishly inside where they usually thrive. Leading scorer Michael Young scored 13 points, partly because of foul trouble. Pittsburgh did have a 44-37 rebounding edge, including 25 offensive rebounds, but they still got outscored 17-14 on second-chance points.
Indiana: Coach Tom Crean, a former assistant during Ralph Willard’s tenure with the Panthers, has been successful against his former employer. Crean was 6-3 against the Panthers when he coached Marquette. Now, at Indiana, Crean is 2-0 against his former employer, making him 8-3 all-time.
Sophomore forward Collin Hartman has played well early, less than nine months after having surgery for a torn ACL. He scored seven points in his second straight game, matching his career high, and grabbed a career best seven rebounds, four on the offensive end.
OFF THE MARK
It was a miserable night for Pittsburgh’s perimeter shooters, too. They were just 7 of 26 on 3-pointers, 26.9 percent, also a season low.
Pittsburgh plays Duquesne on Friday night at a neutral site in Pittsburgh.
Indiana hosts Savannah State on Saturday night.