The Indiana Hoosiers pulled ahead and the Kennesaw State Owls closed the gap.
This trend happened multiple times during the Hoosiers 99-72 win on Tuesday night and it’s not hard to see this game as a microcosm of the Hoosiers’ performance so far this season.
It looked like the game would be a walk-in-the-park like many expected in the first few minutes when Indiana jumped out to a 15-7 lead with 15:19 left in the first half. The Owls responded with a 11-9 run to cut the Hoosiers lead to 24-18 at the under-12 timeout.
Sensing that Kennesaw State was not going to go away quietly, the Hoosiers then seemed to take control by going on 18-6 run to put IU up 42-24 with 5:50 left until halftime. Usually that kind of run would put away a small-conference team like Kennesaw State but the Owls proved to be different as they ended the half on a 14-4 run, making it only a 46-38 lead for Indiana at half.
The teams went back at forth during the first eight minutes of the second half with both teams scoring 13 points. The Owls even started with a 4-2 run at the start of the second half to pull within two scores. Then, starting at the 11:48 mark, the Hoosiers defense shut down the Owls just like they did the Fighting Irish in their last game. Troy Williams led the offensive charge scoring eight points as well as grabbing two rebounds and two assists during a 26-9 run that lasted until the under-4 timeout. The Hoosiers led 85-60 and had finally pulled away.
Williams finished with 20 points and a career-high six assists. Thomas Bryant also scored 20 points (a career-high) and grabbed a team-high five rebounds. James Blackmon Jr. added 19 points while Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell added 16 points.
“We started off the game really well. We closed the game really well. What we’ve got to get better at is the in-between”, said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about the team’s inconsistent play. “We did not handle (Kennesaw State’s Flex offense) well in the first half, and in the second half we just said we’re just going to guard and we’re not going to switch.”
The peaks and valleys of this game almost mirrored the Hoosier’s non-conference performance.
The Hoosiers started the season with three easy wins and high hopes as a top-15 team heading into the Maui Invitational. Then the island paradise turned into a nightmare as Indiana lost to Wake Forest and UNLV while barely beating St. John’s.
The Hoosiers returned home and proceeded to score a season-high 112 points against Alcorn State. Unfortunately Indiana then gave up a season-high 94 points to Duke in a 20-point loss the next game. Following that defensive debacle, IU proceeded to limit its next three opponents to 65 or fewer points.
Finally the first 25 minutes of the Notre Dame game (where the defense again was a sieve) happened followed by the last 15 minutes of that game (where IU locked down after switching to zone and came back from 16 down to win).
It’s hard to get a read on the Hoosiers but this team is capable of being very great at their highest and mediocre at their lowest. Indiana get Rutgers (4-7) and Nebraska (7-5) to start the Big Ten schedule so we’ll see if the Hoosiers can take advantage and start off conference play with some momentum. They have the talent to be near the top of the conference but it will require consistent play to get there.
“Tornado” Troy Williams Sets More Career-Highs
On the day I decided to name Troy Williams the “Tornado” after yet another furious one-man run by the junior, I also got to ask my first press conference question and I directed it at Williams.
Here’s some background information: Williams set a career-high with six assists against Kennesaw State. However, unlike his massive 19-rebound game vs IPFW, this performance was more of a sign of things to come than a once-in-a-career performance. Williams has really improved his assist numbers during his time in Bloomington so I asked him about it.
Q’s Q: Troy, you had a career-high six assists tonight and have really improved your assist numbers this season. How much do you feel your ability to set up your teammates has improved since you came to IU?
Troy’s Response: Tremendously. This is my third year here, and I can just see the change from freshman until now. The biggest jump was last year as a sophomore, and this year I had another jump. Now that I’m able to make plays and throw the assists to my team, it’s a great way to be (as Coach Crean would say) a Swiss Army knife for this team.
First off I want to thank Troy for going very in-depth with his answer to my question. Now when Williams says he made his biggest jump during his sophomore season he means it. During his freshman season Williams only dished out 29 assists which equals 0.9 per game. For his sophomore season that number jumped all the way to 64, which is a 2.0 per game average. This year through 13 games Williams has 32 assists (already more than he had all of his freshman year) which averages out to 2.5 per game.
This season’s number might not seem like that much of an improvement but it is when you look at the game logs. Coming into this season, his single-game high for assists was four. This year Williams already has four games with four or more assists including tonight.
Williams also set another career-high with three made three-pointers. It’s only Williams’ third game of his career with multiple made three-pointers and his first with more than two. It’s easy to see that Williams is already a Swiss Army knife, and he’s only getting better.