WHAT HAPPENED: No. 1 Indiana pounded Central Connecticut State 100-69 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall to improve to 9-0. However, in the process, sophomore swingman Austin Etherington suffered an apparently serious injury to his left knee when he made knee-to-knee contact in the lane with Central Connecticut State’s Terrell Allen and landed awkwardly on the foot.
Etherington was carried off on a stretcher and then left the arena for evaluation. IU coach Tom Crean said the injury is apparently significant, but said it had not yet been completely evaluated by his post-game press conference.
“It’s gonna take a little time to make that determination,” Crean said after the game. “They’re fully in the process of that. He was in a lot of pain when it happened. It takes a little time for that to settle down before they can get to the degree of where it’s at. We’ll find out tonight later. Right now, there’s definitely a significant injury, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Senior forward Christian Watford had his one of his best games of the young season after struggling in recent weeks. He made eight of his 12 field goal attempts and three of his four 3-point attempts to finish with 21 points.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller took advantage of a small Central Connecticut State lineup that didn’t start a player over 6-foot-6 and finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo continued his recent tear of defensive disruption and havoc. He scored 15 points with most of them coming on turnovers, posterizing Allen with one ferocious dunk that turned into a 3-point play. He also recorded nine rebounds, five steals, three blocks and two assists in just 22 minutes of action.He also held Central Connecticut State’s Kyle Vinales, who led the nation in scoring coming into the game with 25.9 points per game, to just seven points on 3-for-15 shooting.
Junior swingman Will Sheehey added 12 points. Senior guard Jordan Hulls had 10 and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell had eight points to go with six assists against just one turnover. Central Connecticut State’s Matt Hunter scored 40 points, matching a record for an IU opponent at Assembly Hall previously held by Michigan State’s Shawn Respert (1995) and Terry Furlow (1976). However, he was the only Blue Devil to finish in double digits.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers were sizzling right out of the gate, hitting 11 of their first 14 shots and built up a 43-18 lead by the 6:17 mark. There was some level of sloppy play after that — due at least in part to shell shock at Etherington’s injury — but the Hoosiers were mostly able to keep the pedal down after that. They shot 62.9 percent from the field in the first half and 54.2 percent from the field for the game. They completely dominated on the glass, grabbing 53 rebounds to Central Connecticut State’s 31 and also scored 56 points in the paint to the Blue Devils’ 20.
Oladipo combined with Sheehey and also Remy Abell on the assignment on Vinales and drove him mad for most of the game. He had two field goals in the first five minutes, but made just one shot the rest of the game. Crean was disappointed in the fact that Hunter was able to go off for 40, hitting six 3-pointers, and said he wasn’t pleased with the looks he was able to get coming off of post-ups and screens, but the suffocation of Vinales made it such that it didn’t matter.
The Hoosiers caused 16 turnovers which turned into 14 points, but it seemed like more. They also had 22 second-chance points, and many of those putbacks were easy simply because of the height advantage. Every starter except for the point guard Ferrell —who by design rarely crashes — grabbed at least five rebounds.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It was another sign that the Hoosiers could overcome adversity, though it certainly helped that they’d already built a sizable lead by the time it struck. It was also another sign of their ability to stick to a game plan, and a sign that they could take a star player entirely out of his rhythm and practically erase him from a game.
Watford’s revival is significant as well. He’d still contributed in recent games, but he was shooting just 32.6 percent from the field since a 23-point effort against Sam Houston State on Nov 15. Crean said Watford had his best practice of the season on Friday, and it certainly looked that way.
The victory also means that the Hoosiers have survived the suspensions of Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin unscathed. They are officially eligible to play and will be available for Saturday’s game against Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
WHO SAID WHAT:
Tom Crean on the Hoosiers playing on after Etherington’s injury
” When you have a close-knit team like this — and I mean close-knit, going through the recruiting processes together, the day-to-day interactions that they have, the togetherness that they have — it affected everybody. And I’m proud of the way that they bounced back. They were really bothered. It wasn’t as much about the win, I just know their thoughts, they were really concerned for their friend.”
“He’s coming off his best practice of the year. He’s had a good week. Yesterday he was unguardable because no one could score on him. It carried right back into it today.”
“I think 19 and 19, that’s nothing to sneeze at. That’s a big-time night. He did an outstanding job. He was very aggressive. He was on the attack. It wasn’t like he was given any benefit of the doubt at the rim. Nineteen and nineteen is pretty impressive.”
On Hunter scoring 40:
“That’s unacceptable to give a guy like that that many points. You don’t want to take away the leading scorer of the country and have someone else become that guy inside of the game. That’s not good, but we’ll look at the film, but some of that was rotation based. Some of that was him playing very well.”
On his dunks:
“The backwards one was nice. But the one where I dunked on a dude was pretty cool too. But the backwards one was fun because I was free-for-alling. I could’ve done whatever I wanted to.”
On defending Vinales:
“I think it was a full-team effort. I think we all did a good job of not letting him be comfortable and letting him get to his sweet spots, making him use his off-hand and things like that. I think we all did a pretty good job on him. But we gave someone else, what’d he have, 40 or something like that? Back to the drawing board. We gotta do better than that.”
On Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin becoming eligible:
“It’s a feathery situation. It’s going to be fun to have them come back. … It’s gonna be fun. They’ve been through a lot too. They don’t deserve what happened to them. At the same time, they’ve done a great job of staying focused and still being with us. I can’t wait to see them flying around next Saturday.”
On losing Etherington
“You have a guy that’s been through a lot with the program. He’s my teammate but he’s also a friend of ours. It’s always tough seeing a comrade go down like that.”
On his own offense
“I got a couple of easy buckets early. My teammates did a great job of finding me for open 3’s. I was in a great offensive flow.”
On losing Etherington
“There’s no preparing for anything like that.”
On bringing in Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin
“It will help a lot. Both of them bring a lot to the table. They can do a lot of things that I can’t.”
On what they bring to the table that he doesn’t.
“Have you seen their arms? I have to practice against that, man. It will be a good change.”