Indiana handles Washington in the Garden, 102-84

WHAT HAPPENED: In its first game away from Assembly Hall and its first game against a major conference opponent, Indiana rolled to a 102-84 victory over Washington in front of 10,064 at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic.

The Hoosiers opened the game on a 9-0 run, forcing Washington to call its first timeout 1:07 into the game after seven straight points. Washington crept back in after that, but Indiana went on a 14-2 run to take a 31-19 advantage with 7:43 to go in the first half. From that point on, Washington never cut the deficit closer than eight points and the Hoosiers led by as many as 22.

The Hoosiers improved to 5-0 and advance to play No. 18 Connecticut at approximately 7 p.m. Friday in the title game of the event.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers had four players in double figures and all four had spectacular moments. Freshman swingman Troy Williams was arguably the most impressive with a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds. He made eight of 12 field goals and six of seven free throws, and generally showed a more complete arsenal than he had to date. He not only had a collection of highlight-reel layups and dunks — not to mention a near-dunk over Washington’s Perris Blackwell that would have brought the house down, but he also knocked down a pair of deep 2-point jumpers, showing a nicer stroke and better range than he’s generally given credit for.

Freshman forward Noah Vonleh finished one rebound short of what would’ve been his fifth straight double-double to start the season with 18 points and nine rebounds. Vonleh wanted it bad, but he was pretty impressive regardless, making seven of 11 field goals and also four of six free throws. He had a pair of assists and a pair of steals to go with those other numbers.

Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell had 20 points and five assists, knocking down three 3-pointers to show that his outside shot continues to come along. He put pressure on Washington’s defenders with the dribble drive, going to the line eight times and knocking down seven free throws.

Senior forward Will Sheehey had some shaky moments, but also finished 7-for-11 from the field with 16 points and five assists. His three turnovers were ugly, but he was also outstanding at cutting to the rim and finishing and also had a high-light reel assist to Williams for one of his layups. He also provided at least serviceable defense on Washington’s C.J. Wilcox. Wilcox finished with 24 points but needed 20 shots to do it and was 2-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Indiana bench finished with 20 points and were a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line. Freshman guard Stanford Robinson had six points and an assist in just six minutes of action. Luke Fischer got a bucket and a free throw, two rebounds and a block in nine minutes. Freshman Devin Davis had foul trouble, but had four points, three rebounds and a block in seven minutes. He also got four fouls in that time.

Wilcox led four Washington scorers in double figures. Forward Perris Blackwell posted 14 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Andrew Andrews had 14 points and four assists and freshman Nigel Williams-Goss had 13 points and three assists.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosier proved that their dominance in the paint and on the glass didn’t just come because they were playing inferior competition early. Washington at least had a few bodies that should have at least been able to provide resistance against Indiana, but it didn’t much matter to the Hoosiers, who won the rebounding battle 50-29, scoring 27 second-chance points and scoring 54 points in the paint. Washington wide-bodies Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp Jr. were no real match for Vonleh and company. Blackwell at least put up a fight, but Kemp played just nine minutes and fouled out with one rebound and no field goal attempts.

But the glass wasn’t everything. Indiana had a few moments when the offensive execution was horrendous, but that was overshadowed by more moments when it was sublime. The Hoosiers posted a season-high 16 assists and shot 51.5 percent from the field for the game (34-for-66) including 62.1 percent in the second half (18-for-29). They were only 3-for-13 from beyond the arc — with all three 3-pointers coming from Ferrell — but others showed they could shoot from outside the paint with Sheehey and Williams making big jumpers. More importantly, they attacked off the dribble and with constant movement without the ball. They got Washington out of position constantly and drew 28 fouls, going to the line 36 times. Just as importantly, they were outstanding at the free throw line, hitting 31 of those 36 free throws. Vonleh was a serviceable 4-for-6 and no one else missed more than one free throw. The Hoosiers also finished with 54 points in the paint, working the ball inside and being relentless on the glass.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It’s unlikely but conceivable that Indiana’s win over Stony Brook could help the Hoosiers more in the long term in terms of RPI than this victory. The Huskies are a Pac-12 team but not a great one and there’s no guarantee whatsoever that they’ll be an NCAA Tournament squad. But this game could help the Hoosiers’ budding confidence level a lot. They stepped outside of their comfort zone of Assembly Hall, they showed no dropoff even though they were playing in one of the more intimidating buildings in the nation and they proved that they can overpower teams that they’ve heard of just as much as teams that the casual fan hasn’t. They’ve also continued to show an ability to learn quickly, to recognize mistakes and at the very least begin to minimize them as they go along. They had a game plan going in to move without the ball, get to the rim and draw fouls and they executed brilliantly. They were relentless and driven and with few exceptions, totally in control. It was the best evidence yet for the young players such as Vonleh and Williams that they truly belong on this stage, and that will matter Friday night and well beyond it.

WHO SAID WHAT: 

Tom Crean:

“I thought what was great for us is that we got off to as great of a start as we could have for a team that is in this environment, so many guys on the road for the first time. Our guys continued to take it from there. We got ahead. We stayed ahead. We had some moments where we didn’t play as well, but we were always able to bounce back. I think the keys for us tonight were going to be to establish the foul line. Washington was only giving up their opponents’ scoring, 15 percent of it coming from the foul line in the first few games and 32 percent of our scoring was coming from the foul line in our first four game.s We gave them a few too many opportunities in the second half foul-wise. I thougt the way we established our play in the first half defensively, for the post part, rebounding the ball and making them take some challenging shots was really important.

On having 16 assists

“We’re not an assist-driven team. … The game is so much about driving and movement, but tonight it was good because we knew we needed to move without the basketball really well. We knew we needed to back-cut. We knew there were some places that were really important for us to attack and to read how we were being played. We started the game with that. I think the guys got confidence early that it was going to be there.”

On the hot start.

“We got those baskets, kind of settled in and all of the sudden we were back on a 94-foot court. It wasn’t about where we were playing and who were playing. It was about the fact that, OK, we can be successful at this.”

Will Sheehey

“I think tonight I was a little bit surprised on how poised (the young players) were in this atmosphere. Not only was it our first road game, but it was also in probably one of the most hectic places in the world. So those guys really brought it today, and I was really proud of them.”

Lorenzo Romar

“We knew that Indiana was a really good offensive rebounding team,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “But what they did just decided the game on the boards. Right away they established themselves. Fifteen offensive rebounds, something like that in the first half. That’s tough to overcome if a team does that to you. We were going uphill the rest of the night after that.”

“We would get a stop and we started to leak out,” Romar said. “We were trying to run before we had the basketball and they were like Dobermans on the boards, crashing the boards like crazy and we didn’t have five guys together, committed to going and getting the rebound. That made all of the difference in the world.”