Hoosiers earn 10th win in non-conference play

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana finished off it’s non-conference schedule with a 90-66 win over Kennesaw State in front of an announced — though not accurate — crowd of 17,472 in the Hoosiers’ last game before Christmas.

The Hoosiers were already in control of the game with a 26-18 advantage when they went on a 16-2 run to go up 42-20 with 1:48 to go in the second half. Turnover problems kept the Hoosiers from running it up much in the second half and Kennesaw State made it a 65-49 game with 9:19 to play, but the Hoosiers never led by fewer than 20 points in the last 6:36.

Indiana is 10-3 heading into the Big Ten opener on Dec. 31 at Illinois. Kennesaw State falls to 3-10.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: IU sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell posted back-to-back strong outings in the last two pre-conference games. On Sunday, the speedy Park Tudor graduate was virtually unguardable, running right past any Kennesaw State defenders who attempted to take him on. He finished with 25 points, one short of a career high. He was 8-for-12 from the field and made the Hoosiers only three 3-pointers. He also had five assists, six rebounds and a steal against four turnovers.

Senior forward Will Sheehey had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and also had three rebounds and three assists. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh nearly posted another double with 14 points — shooting 5-for-6 — and nine rebounds. Freshman center Luke Fischer scored in double figures for the first time with 10 points.

Freshman swingman Troy Williams, who has been struggling of late, had an up and down day. he was 3-for-4 from the field with seven points and had four assists, four rebounds and four steals and a pair of highlight reel dunks. He also turned the ball over six times.

Kennesaw State’s Orlando Coleman led the Owls with 18 points.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: When the Hoosiers didn’t turn the ball over, they basically did great things with it. They shot 62.7 percent from the field (32-for-51), including 65.2 percent in the second half (15-for-23). They rebounded all but one of their second-half missed field goals. They scored at least one point on all but two of their possessions in the second half when they didn’t turn the ball over. They scored 58 points in the paint — with all 29 of their two-point field goals coming in the lane — and won the rebound battle 41-29. They were outstanding in transition with 17 fast-break points and many more that came before the Kennesaw State defense was set.

Still, the turnover number is far too high. In two games against extremely overmatched teams in Nicholls State and Kennesaw State, they turned the ball over 40 times. It’s been a season-long problem at this point with the Hoosiers posting the worst turnover average in the conference and one of the worst nationally. Some of that is because of tempo — the Hoosiers came into the game ranking top 20 nationally in possessions per game — but their turnover percentage was also ranked 297th in the country according to KenPom.com and that’s only getting worse.

The Hoosiers mostly played through the paint in this game and stuck to game plan on offense, but that was relatively easy against Kennesaw State compared to what it will be in Big Ten play. They cognitively realize that they have to take care of the ball better and it has burned them this season, but they haven’t shown an ability to fix it yet.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Again, not all that much. The Hoosiers got through non-conference play with 10 victories and without what could be described as a disastrous loss. Syracuse and Connecticut are both at least Top 25 squads — though the Huskies will tumble with this week’s loss to Stanford — and Notre Dame’s tight game with Ohio State makes that loss seem a little less devastating. Still, as it stands, the Hoosiers’ best non-conference win according to the KenPom.com rankings is against No. 99 Stony Brook and it’s hard to say what position this team really is in going into Illinois. Sunday’s game was far better than Friday’s and the Hoosiers showed a bit of a better understanding of what their identity should be, but the young team looked significantly worse in the second month of the season than it did in the first, so it’s difficult to look at this team as though it’s on an upward trend. The Hoosiers have to turn things around quickly because the early conference games (at Illinois on Dec. 31, Jan. 4 against Michigan State, Jan. 11 at Penn State and Jan. 14  against Wisconsin) will tell them a lot about what direction they’re headed.

WHO SAID WHAT: WHO SAID WHAT:
COACH TOM CREAN

COACH CREAN: For us, I thought we got a lot of good things. I think Yogi Ferrell, as great as he was in shooting the ball, the five rebounds, he had three the other night, those are really important things.
I think we’ve had really a long couple of weeks, long semester, but a long week of practice. I think we need to continue to get better. We did some really good things offensively in the second half today. There’s no doubt about that.
We really grasped the fact that when we give the ball back to the other team, it really is taking points off our average and off individual averages, because I think there was a span, they might have stopped us, I think the number we had was outside of the turnovers in the second half, of the 36 possessions, I think we got stopped twice.
So what we need to be able to do, obviously the score is a little closer than that, we’ve just got to take care of the ball better. But there’s such opportunities for us to do good things with it.
Whether we were going inside, on the break, reversing the ball, I thought those things were solid. We did a lot of different things defensively which really affected the flow of the game.
But to me that’s the tradeoff when you’re trying to put guys in different spots and do different things, play them in different ways, because this is really the last game we have before we move into the Big Ten, obviously.
We want to make sure we have some other things that we can look at on film and build upon. They get a much deserved break. I’m glad that they get it because, again, this group, for as young as they are, we can slice it any way we want, they are a very young group that does not have the experience of what it takes to be in their first semester of college let alone play 13 college basketball games.
With that being said, I think they’ve done an excellent job of continuing to get better and work extremely hard. Now they get a much deserved break.
Go ahead.

Q. How much has Luke Fischer’s play been due to getting comfortable or getting into shape?
COACH CREAN: Probably all of it. Probably all of that. I think it’s just a better understanding.
It was really important to us today to get over the top in the break. It’s got to be important to us every night because we’re capable of that.
I think, again, he really is getting into shape and he’s getting more comfortable. He’s playing through mistakes. He’s playing up to a fatigue level, which is helping him. He had seven deflections at halftime. I almost started him in the second half but I didn’t want to have both he and Noah in if we would have a chance to get the ball up the court and continue to run our break.
Luke, he’s knocking on the door right now of being a really productive player for us.

Q. Do you see that possibility more and more, though, having Noah and Luke on the floor?
COACH CREAN: Oh, yeah. I think we have a lot of possibilities. I think one thing, playing as many guys as we have, we’ve put them in different spots. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to do that moving forward. A little bit of that is really going to be predicated by what kind of consistency level we get from day to day, if we’re going to be able to play more people.
But it’s really important that we can bring fatigue to the game. Right now, even though we had our best shooting day of the year, most assists of the year, we’re going to get better shooting the ball, I have no doubt about that. I think we have to be a hustle, energy, scrappy team every step of the way. However we get that, that’s what we have to find.

Q. What do you like about this team in transition?
COACH CREAN: I thought that was important. The ball got thrown ahead. Still plenty of teaching opportunities. We tried to take some of those on where it could be thrown ahead even better. We want to continue to get out wide and attack that way. But I think the over the top part of it was good. I thought there was really good ball moving on the break.

Q. Three fouls in the first half. Are guys understanding the foul rules better?
COACH CREAN: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. I have to look at the film on that. Every game helps you understand a little bit better. Still, it’s going to be called a little different. It is what it is.

Q. With the depth, what lineups do you envision in the future?
COACH CREAN: I don’t know yet. I really don’t. I’ll start looking at that as we start looking at Illinois, start looking at that over the next few days. I think a lot of that is going to come down to the consistency level that guys play with every day.
Again, there’s standards of the position that you have to be able to have. It’s not as much about the numerical part on what you average, it’s really a lot about what your offensive rebound attempt is like, what is your blockout and pursue, what kind of deflections are you getting for us?
We have to be a hustle, energy, scrapping, bring pressure and fatigue to the game team, get on the glass, get to the foul line, but get the ball constantly moving.
Really I think how many people figure that out, that will probably be the guys that can help us the most.

Q. There was a point in the second half, nine or ten minutes to go, a couple turnovers, you called a timeout. Then you went seven and a half minutes without another one. Did you address that?
COACH CREAN: I address it every timeout. Which one was this now?

Q. About nine minutes to go, two turnovers back to back right in front of the bench.
COACH CREAN: Yeah, the biggest thing with me, it’s been this week, we’re trying to get our style of play down, okay? We don’t know yet what it means to play through fatigue because we really haven’t hit a point where we’ve played to fatigue, okay?
Young guys think they’re tired quickly. I mean, Troy was running really hard. Troy had that dunk, looked like Usain Bolt. Could I have made him go another two minutes and him been just fine? Probably. But we’re still trying to get enough guys through it so they have the experience.
I don’t know if I would call it experimenting. I would call it trying to get as many guys experiences as they have under their belt as we get ready to go into the next rung of the schedule.
We have to be able to develop consistency and decision making. Style of play for us has got to be very, very clear that we have to do things at a high level. Whether it’s successful or not, the ball goes through the paint, we challenge shots, we talk on defense, we get to the glass, we get out and play.
When we start trying to do too much or if we’re not aggressive enough, those are the things that have to be addressed.
We’ve got a bunch of guys that want to do it right. They just don’t get it yet. We don’t understand yet how valuable that basketball has got to be every possession.
A little bit of it, I’ve said this all season along, a little bit of it is a Catch 22 because we’re also trying to score a lot of points. We scored 90, gave the ball back 20 times. What do you think we could have scored with some of those being for us, especially the way we offensive rebound?
We got a lot of work to do there.

Q. You’ve talked a lot about consistency.
COACH CREAN: Yes.

Q. Is Yogi maybe embracing that or understanding how to be that consistent player?
COACH CREAN: He’s getting better. He’s getting better all the time. Look at his week. Look at the improvements from Saturday to Friday, Sunday. It’s not about the competition level. It’s about the playing level and the mindset level. That’s exactly the path you want to stay on.
We didn’t play well against Notre Dame. But, I mean, the way he’s played, the speed, efficiency, the ball being pushed, moved, all those kinds of things. But when you have a guard like that, you have a player that’s that talented, you’re doing him a disservice if you’re not trying to get him to play closer and closer to a perfect game. There is no such thing.
I’m right on that line with him as far as to how good he can be. When you have that, you want to keep pushing him to get to that understanding point just of what he’s capable of and how much better he makes all his teammates. So I think he’s on the right road with all of that.

Q. How did Yogi figure out when to shoot and when to pass?
COACH CREAN: Just played at a high speed and played. Just played at a high speed and played. Made the game easier for his teammates. If it was there, he passed it. If it wasn’t, he shot it. It sounds mundane and simple, and maybe for him it is that simple.
The game is not hard for him, all right, when you’re playing at a fast pace, when you’re very decisive in the way that you play. Then there’s sometimes in score situations that he’s still got a lot to learn about, as we all do. Momentum plays, things of that nature. That’s where the youth of it comes into it a little bit. But we’ll coach that.
When you’re playing as fast as he’s played the last couple days, made those kind of decisions, you’re going to have a couple mistakes and turnovers. That’s not the issue. But now you can take steps. Now comes the consistency part. That’s for him to take that next step and for our team to take the next step.

Q. How do you feel about what you got out of the non conference season record wise?
COACH CREAN: I don’t know. I haven’t thought that. We’re 10 3. Every game, win or lose, you think you can play better. I haven’t really put that in retrospect yet.
Thank you. Merry Christmas.
YOGI FERRELL
LUKE FISCHER
WILL SHEEHEY

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Yogi, what is building the consistency with your scoring?
YOGI FERRELL: Well, I think it’s just pushing the ball really. I’m trying to find different outlets and just find different ways to score.
I’m kind of just playing the game really. Just trying to make the game as simple as possible.

Q. Talk about how you’ve seen Luke develop on the court.
WILL SHEEHEY: It starts in practice. He’s more comfortable in practice, really been more aggressive. And that has really been translating into the games.
He is posting hard, playing hard on defense, which translates into offense as well. Maybe he had a block or steal on one end, ran down had a dunk on the other end. If he continues to do that, he’ll be a very good player for us.

Q. What do you like about where this team is and where do you have to get better to be successful?
YOGI FERRELL: I like so far where we are. Being young doesn’t really play a factor into it now. We have a lot of games under our belt.
A few things we need to work on. Of course, taking care of that ball. That definitely starts with me and Will. We’re definitely going to get on guys a lot harder. We can’t afford to give teams the ball in the Big Ten.
WILL SHEEHEY: Yeah, pretty much going off of what Yogi said. It starts with us two. They see us do certain things, they seem to do it.
I know for myself personally the past four or five games I’ve been careless with the ball, turned it over way too much. It starts with me, then goes down the line. We have to take care of the ball first and the rest will follow.

Q. Luke, is it comfortability thing, a conditioning thing? What’s been different for you?
LUKE FISCHER: I think ever since this past week started, coach really had us running full in practice. That’s just translated to games. We’ve been doing it all week long. Just been working these past two games. So I think that’s the main reason.

Q. What did it mean to get the ball inside today?
WILL SHEEHEY: The game is easier. We play better when the ball goes in the paint. So we’re just going to continue to do that. If our post guys post hard, set good screens, good things happen for them. It starts with them. They must demand the ball. If it’s open, we’ll throw it in to them.

Q. Nine days off until the next game. Especially for the young guys, how important is this break?
LUKE FISCHER: I’m looking forward to it a lot. For a lot of us, this will be the first time going back home since school started. It will be nice to see our families and stuff like that. Also give us a break before the Big Ten season starts and the real action begins.

Q. How hard is it to control the turnovers when you’re playing as fast as you are? How do you balance that?
YOGI FERRELL: Doing that is making the simple pass. Coach always talks about don’t try to make home runs, just make one simple pass that can lead to another even simpler pass either for a layup or a jump shot.
With us playing fast, where we want to go, we just got to make the easy pass and not try to make the highlight or home run pass.