LAHAINA, Hawaii — Indiana had a rough start and tough finish to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Two losses that came down to the final seconds around a 10-point win.
It's not what the 13th-ranked Hoosiers imagined on their long trip.
Indiana opened the tournament with a loss to Wake Forest that came down to a great play by freshman point guard Bryant Crawford with 3 seconds left. After the win over St. John's, it was another one that went down to wire.
UNLV beat the Hoosiers 72-69 on Wednesday to take fifth place in the eight-team invitational.
"We knew we were going to be in a battle, and what we've got to learn in this young season is we had it happen here and we had it happen in the Wake game, and we did a pretty decent job with it yesterday, but momentum is always up for grabs, all right?" Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
"That means when you get it, you've got to hold it. When you don't have it, you've got to find something to get it back. We had a couple moments today where we did get it back, but we also some moments where the game was up for grabs and we didn't do a great job."
Patrick McCaw had 20 points for the Runnin' Rebels (5-1), who bounced back from their opening loss to UCLA with wins over Chaminade and the Hoosiers (4-2), who leave Hawaii with just one win in three games.
Indiana trailed by 15 points in the first half and turned on some solid defense to get back in the game. The Hoosiers closed to 55-53 with 8:20 to play. The Runnin' Rebels then went on a 12-1 spurt, with McCaw scoring seven of the points, including a run-closing 3.
"We're a growing team right now in a lot of ways," Crean said. "The most important thing that we could grow into is understanding where our responsibilities lie as individuals and improvement, and as a team for how we can be collectively better.
"This is a great tournament to learn about that in. A great tournament. No question disappointed with a loss today, but we've got to turn this into some positives."
The Hoosiers got within three points twice in the final 30 seconds. The first time was on a dunk by Thomas Bryant off a tremendous pass from a flying Yogi Ferrell. UNLV's Jerome Seagears made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 13 seconds left to make it 72-67.
Max Bielfeldt's drive for Indiana with 7.5 seconds remaining provided the final margin, but the game was far from over.
Nwamu missed two free throws with 7.1 seconds left, and Indiana gave the ball back to UNLV on a 5-second count on the inbounds. UNLV then threw the ball away on an inbounds pass. Nick Zeisloft's 3-point attempt was partially blocked by Ben Carter, and Nwamu was fouled on the rebound. He missed both free throws with .8 seconds left, but all Indiana could get off was a heave that was well short.
"I knew my man set the screen. I knew they were looking for a 3," Carter said of the blocked shot. "I saw Pat was trailing his man a little bit, so I knew I had to help. Luckily I was able to get the tip on the ball and it was a pivotal play."
Crean said he wouldn't change the play.
"That was excellent. They made an athletic play. But he did a good job taking the shot," Crean said.
Carter and Nwamu had 16 points apiece for UNLV, and Seagears added 12.
Zeisloft led the Hoosiers, who lost to Wake Forest in the final seconds in their opener, with 17 points, and James Blackmon Jr. had 13. Indiana had 21 turnovers that led to 22 points for the Runnin' Rebels.
"We got ourselves in a hole at the beginning with our turnovers, and you're not going to beat any type of team, let alone one as talented as UNLV, when you're giving them 22 points," Crean said. "It's unacceptable with the guys that have the ball in their hands for us to be giving the ball that way, and we've got to get that fixed. We really do, or we've got to fix the lineup."
The only time these schools had played previously was in the Final Four in 1987, a 97-93 win for the Hoosiers who went on to beat Syracuse for one of their five national championships.
YOUNG BIG MEN
It was billed as a matchup of two of the top freshman centers in the country, but neither had a big game. Stephen Zimmerman Jr. of UNLV, who missed the Chaminade game because he was ill, finished with two points and four rebounds. Bryant had seven points and three rebounds for the Hoosiers.
Indiana: Reserve forward Juwan Morgan was carried off the court by two teammates after he was injured in a pileup on the baseline with about six minutes left. Trainers appeared to be working on his right ankle or foot. He never returned to the game.
Indiana: Hosts Alcorn State on Nov. 30.
UNLV: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Saturday.