BLOOMINGTON – This was the Evan Gordon his coach had envisioned.
This was the reason Tom Crean had accepted Gordon as a fifth-year senior transfer after previous stops at Liberty and Arizona State. Crean wanted a veteran impact player at whatever role was needed -- starter, reserve, defense, offense and leadership.
On Saturday night, Gordon delivered.
He scored a team-leading 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He added four rebounds, two assists and one steal in 19 off-the bench minutes.
He was a catalyst in IU's 89-68 victory over a North Florida opponent that, thankfully, was not Syracuse. The senior guard thrived as he hasn't since putting on the candy striped pants.
“When we recruited Evan, and I said this on the bench to him, and hopefully he's figuring it out, we saw a lot left in the tank,” Crean said. “We didn't just see a guy who had played four years of college and who was just coming in for his fifth year. If that was the case, we wouldn't have (signed him). We saw a guy who could make improvements. We saw a guy who could have a bigger role. We saw a guy who could really be a stellar defender.
“When he's focused defensively, all of a sudden you get nights like that offensively.”
Gordon matched his combined scoring for his previous four games. It was three more points than he'd ever scored before in his nine-game IU career. He'd entered the game averaging 5.6 points and 3.1 rebounds while coming off the bench, which was fine if he was a freshman and not playing under a -one-and-done senior deadline.
In IU's three most high-profile games -- Washington, Connecticut and Syracuse -- he had totaled nine points and nine rebounds while making 4-of-8 shots.
The Hoosiers needed more.
Gordon had shown a scorer's touch at Liberty and Arizona State, with a three-year college career average of 12.1 points, but he hadn't transferred to Indiana for this final college season to be the No. 1 offensive option. His role figured to be more facilitator and leader, doing whatever needed to be done.
After Tuesday's second-half team bust at Syracuse that showcased a lack of leadership and toughness, somebody had to step up.
On Saturday night, Gordon did.
Gordon opened 7-for-7 from the field, including a three-pointer. That was big because he entered the game 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I was open," he said. "It's not going to be like this every night, but tonight was my night. I had to make sure I knocked down open shots.”
Does it reflect his growing comfort with the IU system?
"I think I've been comfortable since the start of the season. It just happened to be a good night."
Added teammate Austin Etherington: "He works hard like everyone else. He deserved what he got. Everyone is happy for him."
Gordon wasn't the only one punishing out-manned North Florida (5-6). Yogi Ferrell had 17 points and seven assists. Noah Vonley recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jeremy Hollowell added 12 points.
The ball movement was crisp, the passing sharp, the awareness consistent. The result was a season high in assists (17) and a season low in turnovers (11).
IU (7-2) also got 41 points from its bench.
"They have like 18 legitimate players," North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. "There wasn't even time to get all their players in the game. They have more players on their team than we do on our travel party."
The Ospreys were led by guard Dallas Moore's career-high 27 points.
IU controlled the first half with balance. Nine players scored. Ferrell was the starter catalyst with 12 points and five assists, with a lot of help from Vonleh (eight points, seven rebounds, four steals).
North Florida was a one-man attack with Moore's 15 points. That wasn't nearly enough as the Hoosiers took a 52-35 halftime lead.
The Hoosiers were never challenged in the second half. They had, at least for one game, learned their Syracuse lessons.