(Dustin’s Note: I decided to change things up and come up with a new post-game blog format because I was basically writing two game stories with one going in the paper and the other one going on here. It was inefficient, it got stale, and sometimes I got lazy and did a lot of cutting and pasting. This is designed to shake that up. I’m open to constructive criticism and or ideas on the format, of course. And also, this will probably be more detailed for more dramatic games)
WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana shook off a brief slow start and pulverized Ball State 101-53 in front of 17,126 at Assembly Hall. The No. 1 Hoosiers improved to 6-0 and should maintain their top ranking heading into their showdown with North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.
The Hoosiers were up 10-8 with 14 minutes to go in the half but proceeded to outscore Ball State 40-11 the rest of the way to lead 50-19 at halftime. The Cardinals were never closer than 31 points in the second half.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Junior swingman Will Sheehey seemed to ignite the team with a pair of mid-range jumpers about midway through the first half and posted his best offensive performance of the season. He finished 8-for-9 from the field with 19 points to go with six rebounds and two assists.
Senior point guard Jordan Hulls continued his lights-out shooting, knocking down seven of his 10 field goals and three of six 3-pointers to finish with 17 points. Sophomore center Cody Zeller had 15 points and eight rebounds, junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 13 points and senior forward Christian Watford posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. After not scoring a single point in Brooklyn, redshirt junior guard Maurice Creek also scored nine points, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Once the Hoosiers shook off some cobwebs early, they dominated in all facets. The Hoosiers shot 64.7 percent in the first half and 60.3 percent for the game while holding Ball State to 20.0 percent shooting in the first half and 30.9 percent in the game. They forced 18 turnovers and scored 21 points off those, scored 40 points in the paint to the Cardinals 26 and won the rebounding battle 42-29. They were strong in both man-to-man and zone defenses and maintained focus even when IU coach Tom Crean was switching up lineups while the Hoosiers were playing with a 40-point lead in the second half.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This game served as irrefutable evidence that the Hoosiers can maintain their focus against weaker opponents and that they can very much handle trap games. This one fit that mold, as the Hoosiers were playing a hungry, in-state mid-major opponent in the Cardinals that clearly wanted to make a statement right in in between games that commanded a lot more attention. They were coming off the Legends Classic championship in Brooklyn and have the marquee North Carolina matchup set for Tuesday. IU coach Tom Crean was hounding them throughout the early going to make sure the intensity didn’t slip and it never did, even once the route had become more than apparent. There was some level of sloppiness in the second half, but mostly, the Hoosiers kept the pedal down.
WHO SAID WHAT:
Assistant coach Tim Buckley on maintaining intensity
“In order to be a championship-caliber program, that’s the way you have to play it,” assistant coach Tim Buckley said. “You can’t take any possessions off. Every possession is just as important as the last possession.”
On Will Sheehey
“Will probably didn’t shoot it as well as he would’ve liked when we played in Brooklyn,” Buckley said. “But he got in the gym and he worked. He got shots up. He shot free throws. He did all of the things you have to do to try to get better.”
On second-half experimentation
“I don’t know if I would call it experimenting as much as we needed some work with our zone. We needed some work, maybe, with different guys playing different spots because we’re not at full-strength right now. I thought Austin did a terrific job of playing post defense. Jeremy Hollowell, Jeremy did a great job of taking care of the ball, making good decisions tonight. That was a step forward for him and they got an opportunity to do it in game situations.”
On playing Victor Oladipo at the point in an all-wing lineup
“Coach is really big on expanding guys games. Vic is an example of not only playing on the wing but playing some point guard to expand his game. Cody, we’ve put Cody out on the floor. Cody’s been in the post. We want those guys to be basketball players. Vic ran the pick-and-roll quite a bit last year toward the end of the season. It was kind of like he as running the point. It put him in a situation where he had to be more vocal and get guys where they needed to go. I thought it was really good for him to be in that spot.”
On what sparked the rally
“We saw a couple of shots fall. Our defensive pressure was a lot better. We got some turnovers. That’s when we’re at our best is when we’re running in transition and just getting buckets in transition. We found (sophomore center Cody Zeller) and we were able to get to the foul line a lot.”
On Austin Etherington pushing to make the bucket that got Indiana 100 points and set off a promotion with QDoba that earned free meals for the first 100 fans to present tickets at the Bloomington location
“His eyes lit up when he saw it was 98,” Sheehey said. “He wanted to get that burrito. He’s probably at QDoba right now.”