Notes, quotes and a look back at Hoosier Hysteria

IU basketball

IU officials estimated that a crowd of nearly 14,000 fans packed into Assembly Hall for Saturday’s Hoosier Hysteria.

What they saw was continued visual evidence that this year’s team is far different than the one they last watched seven months ago.

And, at the very least, it stands to be a fun one to follow.

That’s because these Hoosiers can shoot. They’re going to push the pace, too. There were seven turnovers in 68 possessions, with both teams combining to average 1.3 points per possession.

Playing opposite each other, Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. were the stars of the scrimmage. Ferrell led the veteran Red Team — which included Nick Zeisloft, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Stan Robinson and Devin Davis among others — to a 49-42 win over the White. On the other side, Blackmon scored a game-high 19 points.

Indiana coach Tom Crean divided the teams based on what he’s seen in practice, while also trying to force Blackmon and freshman classmate Robert Johnson to work together without the help and guidance of older players like Ferrell and Zeisloft.

“The only real reason to have James and Rob without Yogi is so that they are forced into a leadership role,” Crean said. “At the same time, when Troy (Williams) has the ball in his hands, he knows that there are two guys — really three with Max (Hoetzel) — that the ball will be sprayed to and there is a pretty good chance of it going in.”

IU — and Ferrell especially — also showed just how effective it can be when kicking the ball back out to the perimeter this year. Ferrell showed off some designed drive-and-kick moves that looked especially polished and it’s quite clear that Ferrell is poised for a big year with plenty of offensive options around him. Both teams did some damage from beyond the 3-point line, including a couple occasions on open looks after defenders didn’t match up with a man.

But the ball moved better and more fluidly than perhaps it did in the past. Last year, Indiana averaged 5.5 made 3-pointers per contest. In five games in Canada this summer, IU boosted that figure to 8.4 per game. Expect that trend to continue into the season.

“That’s why it’s so important for Troy (Williams) to handle the ball the way that he does,” Crean said. “When he’s flying down that lane, you can’t help but react to it. And I think he played a simple game tonight, which is what we are trying to get these guys to understand. The better the player you are, the simpler the game should be. If you’re working hard on your skills and fundamentals, your vision and you’re making simple passes, it’s amazing what can happen. I think our game was good and it can get better. We missed some shots that we could have made. But I don’t think our concern is can we make enough threes to be in games? I don’t think that’s going to happen very often.”

While the wait for the regular season continues, Crean likes to revisit one of the Hoosiers’ August games in Canada to explain the value freshman Robert Johnson brings to this year’s team.

In IU’s fourth game of its Montreal tour, the Hoosiers ran away with a 96-69 win over McGill. On that night, 11 Indiana players saw the floor and eight of them scored. Robert Johnson was not one of them. But Crean says he never realized that Johnson went 0-for-6 from the field in that game until he was made aware of it afterwards, contending he was more impressed with Johnson’s ability to impact the game in other areas, anyway.

“When a player can play through what’s not happening for them offensively and continue to impact the game on both ends, that makes them a really valuable player,” Crean said. “So, Robert’s got to continue to learn that that’s a big part of it. I love his upside. I love his desire to get better. He is an absolute 365-day-a-year guy here right now. That needs to continue when it comes to the extra work.”

On a team that appears to have question marks defensively, Johnson could be one player willing to step forward on that side of the ball. He’s an especially strong rebounding guard, who adds versatility to mix. The offensive ability is certainly there, too, and will improve with time. But Johnson seems set to make an impact on the floor this season doing whatever Indiana needs.

“I love the upside of that,” Crean said. “I think guys like Robert and James (Blackmon Jr.) and Max (Hoetzel) are a big, big part of that culture of working extra on their ball handling, their shooting, their driving, all of those types of things even when we’re not practicing.”

Crean also offered an update on sophomore Collin Hartman, who is returning from an ACL injury suffered in March. The IU coach said Hartman is still limited with physical contact but is encouraged by his progress. Hartman played in Indiana’s scrimmage, and also competed in the 3-point contest. He did not see the floor during IU’s Canada trip.

“To me I think he’s ahead of where I would have personally thought he would be,” Crean said. “That’s not necessarily what the doctors would have thought, but I think he’s ahead of that. Hopefully, we can stay with that. There are times that we have to pull him back a little bit. We just keep a daily eye on that. Not just a daily rehab eye, not just a daily ‘is it healing’ eye, just the daily ‘where’s he at’ eye.”