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.

Mistake-Free Indiana Able To Hold Off Rival Purdue

The Indiana Hoosiers’ Achilles’ Heel all season has been turnovers and so the question became “how good would the Hoosiers be if they didn’t commit turnovers?”

They answered that question on Saturday when IU committed only four turnovers as they beat archrival Purdue 77-73 to break a three-game losing streak in the series.

The Hoosiers went the first 17:06 of the first half without committing a turnover and only had one at half while the Boilermakers had eight. The four total turnovers for the game ties for the fewest by the Hoosiers in the last three seasons.

“We want to play fast, we just don’t want to play reckless,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about how the team’s mindset led the way for there being so few turnovers. “I think (our players) have a lot of respect for Purdue. They know how good that defense is. They put a lot of pressure on you. So to me, we needed to make the simple play.”

Indiana (22-6, 12-3) also showed it has multiple players who can take a game over at a moment’s notice. The first half featured Troy Williams and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell ripping apart Purdue’s defense as the duo accounted for 28 of IU’s 35 first half points. In the second half, Thomas Bryant scored the Hoosiers’ first seven points of the second half while Max Bielfeldt had all of his 10 points and 6 rebounds after halftime, including a stretch where he was responsible for eight points during a 12-0 IU run.

Williams led all scorers with 19 points and in the process became the 49th Hoosier to score 1,000 career points. Ferrell also broke out of his shooting slump as he went 7 of 13 from the floor to score 18 points.

The Boilermakers (21-7, 9-6) were led by freshman big man Caleb Swanigan, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. He was also a key player behind Purdue’s 21-9 rally during the final seven minutes of the game, in which he scored half of his points.

Purdue almost had a shot to tie or take the lead when A.J. Hammons blocked Ferrell’s drive to the basket with 7.1 seconds left but was called for goaltending. Despite looking like a questionable call in the moment, replay showed that Hammons touched the rim during the block attempt which by rules certifies a goaltend. Indiana was able to hang on from there.

The Hoosiers won’t play until this Thursday when they travel to face Illinois. The game will be at 9pm eastern time and will be on ESPN.

From The Boxscore:

  • For those of you who want proof that Indiana only turned the ball over four times (and I don’t really blame the skepticism), here is a list of the four turnovers and what happened during those possessions:
    1. The first one didn’t come until the 2:54 mark of the first half and it came on a Robert Johnson offensive foul, which technically counts as a turnover because you did something that gave the ball to the opponent without the reason being a missed shot.
    2. The second one came with 9:07 left in the second half and was credited to Yogi Ferrell.
    3. Max Bielfeldt committed the third one with 7:36 left in the second half.
    4. It wasn’t until the fourth and final turnover that Purdue made Indiana pay for a mistake. Ferrell’s second turnover of the game with 44 seconds left was a result of a Purdue player poking out the ball from behind while Ferrell was dealing with the press in front of him. P.J. Thompson got the steal and assisted on a Dakota Mathias three-pointer that made it a one-possession game.
  • This is the third time in the last 20 years that the Hoosiers have won 12 of their first 15 Big Ten games. The other times were 2008 and 2013.
  • Ferrell, after shooting 10 of 40 his last four games, ended his slump when he made 7 of 13 on Saturday.
  • This was Ferrell’s 130th career start at IU which ties him with Christian Watford for the most career starts by a Hoosier.
  • Troy Williams becomes the 49th Hoosier with 1,000 career points and the eighth player to do it under IU head coach Tom Crean.
  • Having only 4 turnovers to Purdue’s 13 is great, but what’s even better is that IU had 20 points off turnovers compared to Purdue’s 3 points off turnovers.

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.

Three Questions From Indiana’s Blowout Loss At Michigan State

Even though they led by as many as 10 points late in the first half, the Indiana Hoosiers still had to feel really good about their play going into half even though they were down by one. However, that feeling disappeared when the Michigan State Spartans dominated in the second half and ended up demolishing Indiana 88-69.

Not many expected the Hoosiers to win in East Lansing, but it was the fact that IU showed it was capable of winning that game that has Hoosier Nation asking questions. While I don’t have the correct answers, I’ll still give my opinion on what I think are the three of the biggest questions that have surfaced from this loss. If you have a different opinion or just want to add on to my opinions, please leave a comment below.

  1. Is it time to bench Troy Williams?
    • Benching Williams is not a viable long-term solution, but it may be a good short-term one. The man I call “Tornado Troy” has been a force all season, wreaking havoc against both Indiana’s opponents and Indiana itself. When Williams is at his best he’s an NBA lottery pick, but when he’s at his worst he’s a walking turnover-machine. Even though there were quite a few good things from Williams on Sunday, the fact he was scoreless in 20 minutes of play outweighs all of them. My solution would be for Williams to come off the bench for just Indiana’s next game (home against Nebraska) and in his place start OG Anunoby. Williams’ play has responded positively to being benched in the past, and might be what he needs to get going again. It’s also arguably the easiest game the Hoosiers have left so if the switch backfires IU would still be able to overcome it. Williams is the wild card in determining IU’s fate this season and like it or not he needs to play.
  2. What’s the reason behind Yogi Ferrell’s shooting slump?
    • The overwhelming theory is that the heavy minutes load is starting to catch up to him. While that does sound reasonable (Ferrell is playing 34.2 minutes per game), one look at his yearly stats and you notice he played around the same amount of minutes both last year (34.9mpg in 2014-2015) and during his sophomore year (33.8mpg in 2013-2014). Instead I think it goes a little deeper. With James Blackmon Jr. out, Ferrell has made it a point to put the team on his back Add that with the fact the Hoosiers have had a hard time functioning on the court without him and you end up stacking even more pressure and stress onto those minutes. The only real fix to this is if the Hoosiers can prove they can play well enough without Ferrell for extended periods of time so Ferrell can rest a few more minutes. The good news is that IU did just that in its win over Iowa. Now it’s up to Ferrell to take advantage of any extra minutes of rest.
  3. How crucial is it for Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume to get a road win over a great team?
    • I really doubt that not winning a road game against a top team is going to keep the Hoosiers out of the NCAA tournament. I also don’t think it will affect seeding that badly (one seed-line at most). If Indiana is able to grab wins over Maryland and Purdue, it won’t really matter to the selection committee that those games were in Assembly Hall. Where road wins are important to IU is in the Big Ten title hunt. Despite the loss on Sunday, Indiana still controls its own destiny as the Hoosiers still have one more game against Maryland and Iowa. However the game against the Hawkeyes will be in Iowa and is now a must-win, but only in terms of winning the Big Ten.

Resilient Hoosiers Earn Signature Win Over Iowa

Only one word properly describes this year’s Indiana Hoosiers: resilient.

The Hoosiers defeated the fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes 85-78 on Thursday night to move into a tie for first place in the Big Ten. It was the kind of signature win that the Hoosiers’ tournament resume really lacked and IU earned it by being resilient.

Indiana (20-5, 10-2) broke open a back-and-forth game with a 20-4 run from the 17 minute mark until the 10 minute mark of the first half. Indiana would extend that lead to as large as 16 when the Hoosiers led 36-20 with 6:03 left until halftime.

Yet Iowa (19-5, 10-2) steadily chipped away as they responded with a 25-9 run that had the game tied at 45-45 with 17:39 left in the second half. Both teams would continue to exchange buckets but with 9:35 left, the Hawkeyes held a 60-56 lead as well as momentum.

With a 16-point lead gone, the Hoosiers were on the ropes. Their star and senior leader Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had missed on his last nine shot attempts and the Hoosiers as a team were two for their last ten. It felt like all the pressure to win this game, which would give IU their first win against a ranked opponent this season, was collapsing in on the Hoosiers.

However, this Indiana team has actually thrived when it has had its back to the wall. Time and again the Hoosiers have faced obstacles only to grow from overcoming them. From rebounding from a sixth place finish at the Maui Invitational to the embarrassing loss at Penn State last weekend, the Hoosiers have shown resilience all year by never losing back-to-back games.

“When things get bad you can fall off and crumble or you can rise to the occasion. I think that we’ve done a really good job of rising to the occasion when adversity hits,” said Collin Hartman about the team’s resiliency this season.

The Hoosiers rose to the occasion again as Harrison Niego’s baseline jumper marked IU’s first non-layup field goal in over five minutes. That make was the beginning of a 19-6 run that would put the Hoosiers ahead for good. It was also a run that featured Troy Williams “coming back to life” and Ferrell finally making his second basket of the game.

“Troy was like Lazarus, he resurrected himself a couple of times during the game,” joked Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about Williams’ performance. Williams was mostly ineffective during the majority of the game, but Williams ended up being one of the main reasons behind the late run. Williams scored seven of his 13 points during those last nine minutes, which included a see-to-believe moment where Williams split two defenders and nailed a fadeaway jumper that barely beat the shot clock during the final minute of the game.

Indiana still has a lot of obstacles to overcome if  the Hoosiers want to stay at the top of the Big Ten standings amidst a grueling schedule that next has IU traveling to East Lansing to face Michigan State on Sunday. The only thing we know for sure is that Indiana will continue to be resilient no matter what happens.

Multiple Records Fall As Indiana Obliterates Illinois

Coming in to Tuesday night’s game against the Illinois Fighting Illini, one of the Indiana Hoosiers’ basketball records was expected to be broken. Yet when the final buzzer sounded and the Hoosiers walked off the court with a 103-69 win, they did it knowing that they had actually broken two school records.

The first one that was expected to be broken was Indiana’s career assist record. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell came into the game one assist behind previous record-holder Michael Lewis’ 545 assists. Ferrell surpassed that with a no-look pass to Max Bielfeldt in the post who converted an easy layup to give the senior point guard the record at the 11:19 mark of the first half. Ferrell didn’t stop there as he finished with nine assists and also added 16 points.

“That’s a great honor,” said Ferrell about becoming the Hoosiers all-time leader in assists. “I played with a lot of great guys coming up: Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, that’s what I like to be. I like to be a facilitator for my team, and I feel like I’ve gotten to have known my teammates very well all four years.”

One of those players took to twitter to express how proud he was of his former teammate.

The other record that fell was made three-pointers by the Hoosiers in a single game. The Illini clogged the paint to begin the game, having all five players circling around the free throw line. The defensive gameplan was to prevent the Hoosiers from getting easy buckets in the paint and instead have them settle for jump shots. Unfortunately for Illinois, the Hoosiers were up to that challenge as they made the Illini pay by making five of their first seven three-point attempts. Even when Illinois starting defending the three-point line, the Hoosiers were still firing as Indiana finished the game with 19 made three-pointers. Not only is that an Indiana record for most in a single game, but it also set a record for most three-pointers made by one team in a Big Ten game.

“(The Illini) were locked into knowing that they were going to come with a lot of edge and energy on the glass,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about Illinois’ defensive approach against the Hoosiers. “Once we figured out that we needed to continue to go to the paint to get our three-point shots we were much better.”

Nine different Hoosiers made a three-pointer, with Ferrell leading the way with five. Rob Johnson and Nick Zeisloft had three three-pointers, Bielfeldt and Troy Williams had two three-pointers, and Colin Hartman, Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, and Harrison Niego all added one three-pointer.

The lone bright spot for Illinois (9-10, 1-5) was Malcolm Hill, who scored a team-high 20 points and added five rebounds. Indiana (16-3, 6-0) was led in scoring by Williams, who finished with 21 points along with four rebounds and five assists.

The Hoosiers will face another Big Ten school from the state of Illinois as Indiana hosts Northwestern on Saturday at 12pm in Assembly Hall.

From The Boxscore:

  • Not only do the Hoosiers have the most threes ever in a Big Ten game, but they also hold the record for the second, third and fourth most in a Big Ten game.
  • This was the fourth time this season that the Hoosiers have scored in the triple-digits and the first time they’ve done it without James Blackmon Jr. In fact, JBJ had at least 20 or more points in those other three games this season.
  • Everyone on the Hoosiers who attempted a three-pointer made at least one. Collin Hartman, Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, and Harrison Niego each attempted just one shot from behind the arc and made that shot.
  • Troy Williams had a team-high 21 points and added five assists without committing a single turnover. He also made two three-pointers. “Tornado Troy” was nothing but positive for the Hoosier tonight.
  • Just being on the receiving end of Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell’s record-breaking assist would have constituted a great night for Max Bielfeldt but his performance didn’t stop there. Bielfeldt finished with 16 points, 3 assists, and team-highs in rebounds (8), steals (3), and blocks (2).
  • Lost in Ferrell’s performance, Rob Johnson again flirted with a triple-double, He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
  • The Hoosiers have now won 11 games in a row, one short of Tom Crean’s best winning streak as the Indiana head coach. His 2011-2012 Hoosiers started the season 12-0, which included the memorable buzzer-beating win over top-ranked Kentucky.
  • In addition to taking the top spot on the all-time assist list, Ferrell also passed Brian Evans for 11th on IU’s all-time scoring list.

 

Three Observations From Indiana’s Road Win Over Minnesota

The Indiana Hoosiers started out cold in The Barn but were able to get hot enough to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 70-63. The Hoosiers (15-3, 5-0) found themselves in a nine-point hole early in the first half but were able to tie it up before halftime before ultimately winning a back-and-forth battle with the Golden Gophers (6-12, 0-6) in the second half. IU will try to improve upon this performance when Indiana hosts Illinois at 7pm this Tuesday. For now, let’s take a look at three things that really stood out to me as the Hoosiers improved to 5-0 in Big Ten play:

  1. Williams and Johnson Struggle Scoring Again: Both Troy Williams and Rob Johnson are good scorers but this season they haven’t been consistently good. James Blackmon Jr’s scoring made up for those games when neither Williams nor Johnson were feeling it offensively, but with Blackmon Jr. gone the Hoosiers have really struggled at times when they don’t get much from Williams and Johnson. On Saturday, those two combined for just nine points (seven for Williams, two for Johnson) as the Hoosiers scored a measly 70 points against a Minnesota team that had already given up 86 points to Penn State and 84 points to Nebraska. IU was still able to muster up enough points to beat Minnesota but against the elite teams in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers will need either Williams or Johnson (or maybe both) to be offensive threats for Indiana to have a chance to win those games.
  2. Zeisloft Finding His Stroke Again: To say Nick Zeisloft was in a shooting slump would have been an understatement. In the four Big Ten games before Saturday, Zeisloft was shooting a disastrous 4 of 25 (16.0%) from three-point range. However, in a game where many Hoosiers were struggling to make baskets, Zeisloft chose the perfect time to get out of his slump as he made 5 of 8 (62.5%) from deep against the Golden Gophers, including four in a row. Zeisloft, who shot 45.0% from long range last season, has actually been struggling for longer than just the Big Ten season. After a November where he made 18 of 33 (54.5%) from deep, Zeisloft has only made 12 of 40 (30.0%) over his last ten games (six of which were non-conference games) before this Saturday. Hopefully for the Hoosiers, Saturday was the day he found his shooting touch again.
  3. Yogi Ferrell Deserves More Attention In “Player Of The Year” Discussions: There are a lot of deserving candidates for not only the Wooden Award but also Big Ten Player Of The Year, but Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell should at least be acknowledged for both. Ferrell’s stats against Minnesota (20 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals) tells just how pivotal he was for the Hoosiers to be able to win, but the amazing thing is that these stats are becoming a common occurrence. Since the loss of Blackmon Jr, Ferrell has averaged a ridiculous 19.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.8 steals as he has led the Hoosiers to a 5-0 conference start. He’s also made most of his big plays in the second half when his team has needed a big play. Sure the turnovers are a little high (2.8 per game on the season and 3.8 during the last five games without JBJ), but there are few players in college basketball that mean more to their teams and he should start getting recognized for it.

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.

 

Hoosiers’ Up-And-Down Win Over Kennesaw State A Microcosm Of IU’s Season So Far

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.