Hoosiers In The NBA: Recapping The Opening Week Of The NBA Season

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A new season in the National Basketball Association has tipped off and thus another year of Hoosiers In The NBA has begun! Now entering it’s fourth year, I’ve gone from covering just Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller to now keeping tabs on eight former Hoosiers.

Every week I’ll go over the biggest stories regarding our roster of former IU players and have their season averages at the end of the article.

This week we have a lot to go over as the start of the season has been a very intriguing one for our former Hoosiers so let’s waste no more time and dive right in:


Things Clicking For Oladipo Back In Indiana

It took very little time for Victor Oladipo to feel at home back in the Hoosier state.

Oladipo is off to the best start of his career and it’s not even close. Here is a look at the first four games of each season by Oladipo:

2013: 13.8ppg, 43.8% FG, 30.0% 3FG
2014: 12.3ppg, 34.8% FG, 25.0% 3FG
2015: 15.8ppg, 35.3% FG, 25.9% 3FG
2016: 15.0ppg, 32.8% FG, 23.8% 3FG
2017: 23.8ppg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG

There are numerous reasons as for why this season has started off better than any of his prior seasons, from just being more accustomed to the NBA game to being the focal point of the offense and getting more touches.

Yet the thing that stands out most to me is that Oladipo is going to the basket more aggressively and drawing more fouls than he’s ever done before. He’s already averaging 6.8 free throw attempts per game, almost double his career average of 3.6 free throw attempts per game.

This has led to an improved shooting percentage, always a weakness for Oladipo, as defenses are starting to respect his ability to drive past them to the rim and are thus giving him a little more shooting space.

It would be important to note that three of these games have been without the Indiana Pacers other young star Myles Turner so it will be worth monitoring Oladipo’s numbers when Turner returns as we find out who the offense will run through when both are healthy.


Gordon Continues Scoring Pace From Last Season

Eric Gordon was rejuvenated last season, there’s no other way to put it.

After five injury-riddled season with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, Gordon played in 75 games (second most games he’s played in a season) during his first season with the Houston Rockets and became one of the NBA’s best sixth men and dangerous three-point shooters.

However the acquisition of Chris Paul likely meant that Gordon’s numbers would decline and we would start to see him more as a role player who would have the occasional throwback game instead of the second scoring option he was the year before.

Yet an unfortunate injury to Paul has Gordon not only back to being the secondary scorer again, but Gordon kicked it up a notch with three 20+ point games in his first four and, like Oladipo, a renewed interest in drawing fouls and going to the free throw line.

Gordon is averaging 7.8 free throw attempts through the season’s first four games, which contrasts greatly with Gordon’s last three seasons where he averaged under three attempts per game all three years.

This large amount of free throws will no doubt dwindle as the season goes along, but even half as many as he is averaging right now would mark a huge step forward for Gordon as he continues to transform his game in the second stage of his career.


Zeller Is The Back Up For Now
The offseason acquisition of Dwight Howard made Cody Zeller’s role on the Charlotte Hornets a bit of a mystery heading into the season.

After battling Al Jefferson for three years over the starting spot, Zeller finally won out and got his chance to be the starting big man last year and didn’t disappoint with career-best numbers in almost every stat category.

However he missed 20 games (tied for the most he has missed in a season) and the Hornets went a ghastly 3-17 in those games because of the lack of depth behind him at the position.

Enter Howard, who reunites with Head Coach Steve Clifford, one of his former coaches back in his Orlando Magic All-NBA years. Despite Zeller being the better player last year as well as six years younger, Howard has been awarded the starting spot mainly based on the fact that he’s a future Hall of Famer.

While this arrangement might work for now (Howard is averaging 12.7 points and 17.3 rebounds during the opening week while Zeller has only played in one of his team’s three games), history says Zeller will be the starter again by midseason. Although a bone bruise to start the season and two missed games may push that timetable back a bit.


Ferrell Is Still In The Starting Lineup
From a 10-day contract to a two-year contract and an All-Rookie 2nd team nod, Yogi Ferrell had quite the adventure during his first season in the NBA.

Looks like things will be just as crazy in year two. Ferrell, who was slotted to be the backup point guard, has started in all four of the Dallas Mavericks’ games so far this season and has been fairly impressive, especially from behind the arc where he’s shooting 52.6% from deep.

The reason Ferrell has been in the starting lineup is because of injuries.

The Mavericks used the ninth pick in the NBA draft on Dennis Smith Jr. who they have high hopes will be their franchise point guard. Unfortunately he has missed two of the Mavericks’ four games. In addition to Smith, Seth Curry has yet to play this season due to a leg injury.

Yet Ferrell has made the most of his playing time (34.5 minutes per game) and I still expect around 20 minutes a game when he eventually goes back to the bench, especially after the way he has performed this first week.


Anunoby Already Starts His Rookie Campaign

The fear of maybe missing his entire rookie season caused OG Anunoby to fall all the way to number 23 on draft night where the Toronto Raptors happily picked him.

Anunoby has repaid the Raptors’ faith in him as surprisingly he was able to participate right away in the first game of the season.

While he hasn’t done anything too special, it is fun to note that his first career points were a dunk over Quincy Pondexter and that he finished with nine points in his first NBA game.


Season Averages:

OG Anunoby: Forward, Toronto Raptors:

5.3ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.7apg, 0.33spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 28.6% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 15.7mpg (3 games)

Thomas Bryant: Center, Los Angeles Lakers:

N/A

Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell: Guard, Dallas Mavericks:

13.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.0apg, 1.00spg, 0.00bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.5fpg, 39.5% FG, 52.6% 3FG, 93.8% FT, 34.5mpg (4 games)

Eric Gordon: Guard, Houston Rockets:

23.5ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.3apg, 0.25spg, 0.50bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 41.4% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 83.9% FT, 30.5mpg (4 games)

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Indiana Pacers:

23.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.5apg, 2.50spg, 0.50bpg, 2.8tpg, 3.5fpg, 47.1% FG, 38.1% 3FG, 85.2% FT, 30.8mpg (4 games)

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

N/A

Troy Williams: Forward, Houston Rockets:

2.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 0.00bpg, 0.0tpg, 1.0fpg, 25.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 0.0% FT, 4.0mpg (1 game)

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

8.0ppg, 9.0rpg, 0.0apg, 0.00spg, 1.00bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 23.0mpg (1 game)

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Blackmon And McRoberts Step Up In Win Over Michigan State

With the loss of OG Anunoby, the Indiana Hoosiers know they need multiple players to step up to make up for his impact. During the Hoosiers’ 82-75 win over Michigan State on Saturday, those players were the unlikely duo of James Blackmon Jr. and Zach McRoberts.

Already averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game, Blackmon went above and beyond his usual scoring performance as he hit his first six shots (four of which were three-pointers) and finished with 33 points, tying his career-best scoring performance.

“He was ready to shoot,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean. “His teammates did a great job getting him open. He (also) did a great job getting himself open with setups. His lift was good.”

Blackmon’s hot start was part of an incredible shooting display from the Hoosiers in the first half, as Indiana made its first six shot attempts from behind the arc.

“It makes it easier for all of us when (Blackmon) is hitting shots like that,” said Robert Johnson, who also provided an offensive spark with 17 points. “Guys have to try to make a plan to stop him, and that just opens up even more for us.”

While not as flashy as Blackmon’s performance, McRoberts played just as vital of a role in making up for the absence of Anunoby.

The walk-on from Carmel was a surprising choice for the fifth starter, but the risk paid off as McRoberts had his fingerprints all over this game as he finished with three points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block in 32 minutes of play. He also led the team in +/- with a +14 and deflections with an incredible 16.

“We know what Zach (McRoberts) can do. That’s why we’re confident when he’s out there,” said Blackmon about McRoberts’ impact. “He brings that energy and he does the little things that we need.”

McRoberts’ numbers are magnified because of the direct impact they made. Three of his five rebounds were on the offensive end, one of which set up an easy three-pointer for Blackmon that gave Indiana a 9-8 lead that the Hoosiers wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. He even made his only three-point attempt when the Spartan defense played too far off him.

“He works extremely hard,” said Crean. “He’s one of those guys that he wants to make (his teammates) better but he’s got to be reminded that he’s pretty good too.”

The performances of McRoberts and Blackmon showed that the Hoosiers have players capable of stepping up in Anunoby’s absence. It won’t always be them in particular but it reassured fans that the Hoosiers as a team are taking the challenge head-on instead of possibly using it as an excuse. The next few games will let us know who else on the team is ready to rise to the challenge.

Indiana Plays Like A Champion In Front Of 1981 Title Team, Beats #3 North Carolina

Before the game, former Indiana baseball star Kyle Swarber was honored for helping the Chicago Cubs win its first World Series in 108 years. During halftime, the 1981 Hoosiers were honored for winning the NCAA championship 35 years ago. Following each of those two events were two 20-minute periods that culminated in the 2016-2017 Indiana Hoosiers beating the #3 North Carolina Tar Heels 76-67 and looking very much like a team that could be honored on its own one day as a champion.

Coming off an impressive performance in Maui, the Tar Heels were put in an unfamiliar position as they never led once on Wednesday with the Hoosiers taking control of the game from the tip and never letting go thanks to some great defense and rebounding.

“Coach (Rob) Judson did a great job with the game plan”, said Rob Johnson about how the Hoosiers were able to slow down the explosive offense of the Tar Heels. “He gave us a breakdown of everything each guy liked to do. So we just wanted to take those away and make it tough for them.”

“We know their bigs are the best in the country”, said Thomas Bryant about the importance of keeping North Carolina off the glass, “and we knew that we had our work cut out for us at the beginning. So we wanted to establish that mindset and get out there and get after them.”

On the offensive side, OG Anunoby stepped up in a big way as he led the Hoosiers with 16 points and added five rebounds, two assists, and two blocks before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the final minutes.

Anunoby is a bit of an enigma, as came onto the scene late during his freshman year as a three-and-D wing. This season, he’s trying to show that his athleticism can translate into him becoming a superstar. While not close to being one yet, his importance was clear last week when a serious illness kept from being much of a factor during the Hoosiers’ upset loss to Fort Wayne. That’s what makes his performance on Wednesday so encouraging and his ankle injury so potentially discouraging.

Yet even if Anunoby misses time, the Hoosiers showed they were a great TEAM on Wednesday with multiple players playing crucial roles in the victory.

  • Thomas Bryant (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) scored seven of the Hoosiers first 11 second-half points to counter North Carolina’s comeback attempt in the early minutes after halftime.
  • Rob Johnson (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) was the first half catalyst as he scored seven points and assisted on another basket to help the Hoosiers jump out to a 17-7 lead during the first six minutes.
  • James Blackmon Jr. (14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) came back after missing the last game and grabbed six rebounds during the final 10 minutes of the game, including a couple of huge defensive rebounds that helped prevent the Tar Heels from narrowing the Hoosiers’ lead.
  • Josh Newkirk (10 points, 3 assists) did a great job running the offense at times and De’Ron Davis (5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) was a key part of the Hoosiers’ 13-4 run that ballooned the Indiana lead to 28-11 midway through the first half and also made a clutch post-up bucket with 3:02 left to push it to a three-basket Indiana lead.

People remember the 1981 Hoosiers as being Isiah Thomas’ team. While he was a big part of their success, they wouldn’t have cut down the nets if it weren’t for the play of Ted Kitchel, Ray Tolbert, Randy Wittman, and Landon Turner.

While it’s way too early to compare this season’s group of important players to those legends, the potential for them to work together and complete the same goal is a very real possibility. Anunoby, Bryant, Johnson, Blackmon, Newkirk, and Davis are all capable of playing a key role in winning a championship.

Just like Schwarber played a key role in the Cubs winning a championship.

Three Reasons The Hoosiers Are On The Brink Of Winning The Big Ten

The Indiana Hoosiers took care of business on Thursday as they easily defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 74-47 thanks to a dominant second half performance. With the win, the Hoosiers now sit at 13-3 in Big Ten play and are closing in on their second conference championship in four years.

Yet how did a team left for dead at the beginning of December turn things around so drastically?

Here are three reasons the Hoosiers are one win away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title and two wins away from winning the conference outright:

  1. Depth: Very few college basketball teams have nine players  who can contribute on a nightly basis and the Hoosiers take full advantage. Combining their breakneck pace with their ability to rotate players in and out keeps their players relatively fresh enough to make a game-ending run when the opponent becomes gassed. It has also helped the team weather what could have been a season-ending injury when James Blackmon Jr. went down right before Big Ten play began. Instead, freshmen OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan have grown up quickly and have provided superior defense along with adequate offense.
  2. Schedule: Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: the Hoosiers had a very easy early Big Ten schedule. This was even more important for the Hoosiers as it coincided with their period of trying to adapt their rotation after the loss of Blackmon. Looking back at a couple of those games it’s almost shameful to think that the Hoosier only beat awful Rutgers by 7 points. But those early games against lesser competition let the Hoosiers make a successful transition while not hurting their record. At the end of the day, you can’t control who you face in your conference and the Hoosiers took advantage of things breaking right for them.
  3. Yogi Ferrell: The senior point guard has been great throughout his entire career at Indiana but this year he has taken it to another level. In Big Ten games this season, Ferrell is averaging 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. On top of that, his defense has reached a level he’s never played at before and it has resulted in 1.31 steals per game in conference play for a player who has never averaged over one steal at any point in his college career. But what’s been the most impressive is his leadership. I only mentioned Big Ten games because those are the games he’s played with Blackmon out of the lineup, showing that Ferrell has stepped up in his absence. Ferrell reinforced the notion that he can carry the Hoosiers when the team needs it by posting 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists against Illinois in a game Indiana was without Rob Johnson and saw Troy Williams play limited minutes due to an injury. In the second half alone, after trailing the Illini 28-27 at half, Ferrell had as many points in the second half (19) as the whole Illinois team. He may not win Big Ten Player of the Year, but Ferrell has arguably been the most valuable player in the conference and is starting to climb the list of greatest Hoosiers of all time.

Williams and Morgan Help Indiana Overcome Slow Start To Beat Nebraska

The Indiana Hoosiers seemed to still be reeling from the second half beatdown Michigan State gave them on Sunday when IU fell behind six early against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. But the Hoosiers found their rhythm late in the first half and took control the rest of the way as Indiana won 80-64 to return to first place in the Big Ten.

From the 1:34 mark of the first half to the 15:39 mark of the second half, Indiana (21-6, 11-3) went on 20-2 run to break a 34-34 tie and put itself ahead the rest of the way thanks in large part to Troy Williams. Williams scored six of his game-high 18 points during the run and also added a rebound, a steal, and a block during that six minute stretch.

“I had more of an attacking mindset,” said Williams about his approach to this game. “After the Michigan State game, I didn’t come out aggressive and I watched (the tape) and me and Coach (Tom) Crean talked and decided it’s time to put on an aggressive mindset.”

Nebraska (14-13, 6-8) didn’t go away quietly as the Cornhuskers responded with a 11-3 run and later cut the Hoosiers lead to single-digits.

However, Nebraska’s threat didn’t last long as Juwan Morgan stepped up late by scoring nine of his career-high 12 points  and grabbed all five of his rebounds during the final nine minutes of the game as the Hoosiers extended an eight-point lead to a 20-point lead.

“My teammates set me up by putting me in position to get easy buckets,” said Morgan about his career scoring day. “I remember the most recent one, Troy (Williams) drove to the lane hard with an attacking mindset, and all I did was move out of the way and he found me. Just them making plays like that just opened up everything for me, and I just can’t thank them enough for that.”

Indiana looks to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since the beginning of February (which were wins over Minnesota and Michigan) as the Hoosiers face in-state rival Purdue on Saturday night at Assembly Hall. Game will start at 8:30pm and will be on ESPN.

From The Boxscore:

  • The Hoosiers have yet to lose two games in a row this season as Indiana is now 6-0 following a loss.
  • Troy Williams is now just 11 points away from becoming the 49th Indiana Hoosier to score 1,000 career points.
  • IU shot 7 of 17 over the first 14 minutes of the first half but finished the half making 5 of 6.
  • Williams led the Hoosiers in scoring (18 points), OG Anunoby led them in rebounds (6) and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell led them in assists (4).
  • Ferrell’s shooting slump extended to a fourth game as he only hit 2 of 8 from the floor. Over the last four games, Ferrell has shot a terrible 25.0% (10 of 40) on field goal attempts.
  • Jack McVeigh led Nebraska with 17 points while Andrew White III added 15 points.
  • The Hoosiers remain undefeated in Assembly Hall, improving to 15-0.
  • Indiana is tied atop the Big Ten standings because Iowa lost at Penn State just before Indiana played its game. Penn State has now beaten Indiana and Iowa in its last two home games.
  • Juwan Morgan set career-highs in both points (12) and rebounds (5).
  • Thomas Bryant only scored 4 points and grabbed 2 rebounds, but he did set a career-high with 3 assists.
  • Rob Johnson added 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Williams And Johnson Start Scoring Again As Indiana Dominates Ohio State

It was meant to be a matchup of two improving teams who had overcome tough non-conference seasons, with both needing a win to show that their turnaround wasn’t a fluke. Instead, Assembly Hall was treated to a demolition derby as the Indiana Hoosiers obliterated the Ohio State Buckeyes 85-60.

For the first time in Big Ten play this season, the Hoosiers (14-3, 4-0) didn’t have to sweat one out as IU took control right from the tip with a 10-0 run. The bleeding never stopped for Ohio State in the first half as Indiana took a mind-blowing 48-18 lead into the half. The 30-point lead was the biggest halftime lead over a Big Ten team for the Hoosiers in over 20 years.

One of the biggest reasons behind the blowout was that Indiana dominated the boards, grabbing 50 rebounds with 17 of them coming on the offensive end. Those offensive rebounds helped the Hoosiers extended possessions and ultimately find better shots. IU finished with a ridiculous 32 second-chance points compared to Ohio State’s five.

“(It was the) mindset that we have in practice and then we just translated it into the game,” said Thomas Bryant, who led the team with 13 rebounds. He also had 18 points to give him his first double-double as a Hoosier.

However, there was another reason this win was easier for Indiana then its three prior Big Ten wins.

During IU’s first three conference games, both Troy Williams and Rob Johnson were non-factors on offense averaging a combined 8.7 points per game. Against the Buckeyes on Sunday, both players scored in double-figures.

Williams was locked in immediately as he took the ball to the rim for a layup on Indiana’s first possession. Williams stayed aggressive the rest of the game as he scored a team-high 23 points, which also matched his career high. Maybe even more impressive, he played like “Tornado Troy” but only committed one turnover.

“Troy played phenomenal with his head up,” said Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, who added 16 points and six assists himself. “I like his decision-making. He didn’t over-penetrate. I felt like he pick and chose his spots.”

Johnson scored 11 points but it was his passing that really got the Hoosiers going. While Johnson did dish out 11 assists during the IU’s first three Big Ten games, he also turned the ball over 13 times. Against Ohio State, Johnson recorded six assists to only one turnover.

“He’s not completely healthy and he has not been,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about why Johnson had struggled previously. “But he’s working. You can’t keep him out of the gym. And I don’t practice him every day fully, but it doesn’t make any difference, he’s out there. And we’ve got to keep working through it.”

The Buckeyes (11-6, 3-1) had come in winning their last seven games, including a win over Kentucky, but they just couldn’t find their shot in the first half, hitting 28.0% (7 for 25) of their field goal attempts. Jaquan Lyle scored 24 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to try and make the score a little more respectable.

The Hoosiers will have the following work week off as their next game will be at Minnesota next Saturday at 12:30pm.

Stats From The Boxscore:

  • How much of a beatdown did the Hoosiers give the Buckeyes in the first half? Just look at these categories IU had commanding advantages in:
    • Points off turnovers: IU 17, OSU 4
    • Second-chance points: IU 15, OSU 3
    • Total Rebounds: IU 24, OSU 14
    • Field Goal Percentage: IU 50%, OSU 28%
    • Turnovers: OSU 11, IU 5
  • By earning his first career double-double, Thomas Bryant also set a new career-high for rebounds with 13.
  • Both Yogi Ferrell and Rob Johnson stuffed the statsheet. Ferrell had 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals while Johnson had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
  • OG Anunoby again provided a spark off the bench, providing 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in 19 minutes.
  • For the game, the Hoosiers only had 12 turnovers to the Buckeyes’ 14, marking the first time during conference play that Indiana had fewer turnovers then its opponent.
  • Troy Williams scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half, which were almost as many as the Buckeyes scored during the first half (18 points).
  • JaQuan Lyle actually did score more points in the second half (23) than his Buckeyes did in the entire first half. Lyle finished the game with just under half of Ohio State’s points.

Bielfeldt Helps Short-Handed Hoosiers Hold Off Rutgers

The Indiana Hoosiers avoided a bad start to conference play by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-72  in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday to win IU’s first Big Ten game of this season.

The close score and the quality of opponent (Rutgers was ranked as the 245th ranked team according to Kenpom) may have Hoosier Nation very worried going forward but the truth is that this was a good win considering the circumstances.

The Hoosiers faced an uphill challenge from the beginning of the game when James Blackmon Jr. was ruled out due to a knee injury he suffered during one of the practices heading into conference play. The Hoosiers faced even more adversity when Thomas Bryant got in early foul trouble and stayed in foul trouble all game before fouling out in the second half. In total, Bryant played all of six minutes and only contributed three points and a single rebound.

Then there was the turnovers. The Hoosiers finished the game with 23 of them and the biggest problem was that they came from players you’d least expect. Starting Guards Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Rob Johnson combined for 11 turnovers (six for Ferrell and five for Johnson) and Troy Williams, who does have a tendency to get too careless with the basketball, had a shockingly bad day even for him as he committed more turnovers (7) then he grabbed rebounds (6).

While most of these troubles were self-inflicted, the Hoosiers should still be given credit for overcoming everything to win their first conference game as well as their first road game of the season (the Maui Invitational counting as neutral site games).

Collin Hartman did a good job filling in for the injured Blackmon Jr. as he finished with nine points, including two three-pointers in the first few minutes of the game, and also added two rebounds.

However, the biggest story was Max Bielfeldt.

Unlike Hartman, Bielfeldt didn’t come into the game knowing he would have to make up for a starter’s lost production. Yet Bielfeldt filled in magnificently for the foul-plagued Bryant by tying a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. His combination of passing, scoring, and interior defense was almost Zellerish at times and was greatly needed for the Hoosiers to beat a very aggressive Rutgers team.

While Bryant didn’t have a great first Big Ten game, O.G. Anunoby did. The freshman from Missouri played his best game yet as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals while also making two more three-pointers.

Longtime reserve Ryan Burton also made two three-pointers for an Indiana bench that nearly outscored the starters (42-37). Ferrell had a terrible first half but played significantly better in the second half as he ended up leading the Hoosiers in points (20) and assists (7).

The Hoosiers will get to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will play again on Saturday at Nebraska before returning home to face Wisconsin next Tuesday.