Indiana Improves to 5-0

The Hoosiers are off to their best start since the 2002 season thanks to a solid, but not spectacular 72-56 victory over North Carolina Central Tuesday night. Sophomore Christian Watford led Indiana with 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists and classmate Jordan Hulls added 15 points as the Hoosiers pushed back the Eagles to remain perfect at home this year.

The Hoosiers are off to their best start since the 2002 season thanks to a solid, but not spectacular 72-56 victory over North Carolina Central Tuesday night. Sophomore Christian Watford led Indiana with 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists and classmate Jordan Hulls added 15 points as the Hoosiers pushed back the Eagles to remain perfect at home this year.

"They're getting better, they are improving" said Coach Tom Crean of his Hoosiers after the game. "If we can continue to improve while we are winning that is going to really carry us down the road because we know we got a lot of tough games coming up."

It was a back and forth affair throughout most of the entire half as Central's Landon Clement's hot shooting got the visitors off to a fast start. The Hoosiers answered with Hulls, who hit four of his first five shots to pace the Hoosiers early. The teams were tied at 22 with five minutes to go in the opening half when IU began a 12-2 run behind strong play from sophomore Derek Elston, who contributed eight points and four rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

"It was good to have Derek back," Crean said. "That's not a CNN newsflash there. It was good to have him there scoring in the post, being aggressive and alert and playing with a lot of energy."

The Hoosiers strong finish to the opening half was punctuated by Victor Oladipo. The freshman has shown an early flair for late second dramatics and added another chapter to his book with a steal and three-quarter court buzzer-beater that gave the Hoosiers a 34-24 lead in the locker room.

"I felt the biggest play of the game as far as a momentum swing was right before the half," said North Carolina Central Coach LaVelle Moton. "We had the ball underneath the basket with three seconds left for an out of bounds play, and one of our guys didn't do what he was supposed to do. As a result we threw the ball away, he hit a half court shot, got the crowd on their feet, got momentum, they started believing in themselves, and the rest is history."

Central started the second half with a 7-2 run to close the gap, but the Hoosiers would let them advance no further quickly going on a 7-0 run of their own to extend the lead back to 10. From there it was a slow battle of attrition with the bigger, more athletic Hoosiers slowly wearing their opponents down and extending the lead to 20 in the final minutes.

Defensively, though, it wasn't the best of efforts from Indiana. The Eagles shot 47.8% from the field, the best mark for an IU opponent this season. If it wasn't for the 21 turnovers IU forced this game likely would've stayed close until the very end. Instead, the Hoosiers pulled away due in large part to a 19-25 effort at the charity stripe. Watford made 9 of his 10 freebies to help overcome a poor shooting night (4-14) and lead the Hoosiers in scoring.

"What the game was giving us tonight was the opportunity to drive the ball and get to the foul line and I thought we did a good job of that tonight," said Crean.

The Hoosiers now have just one more home game left, Northwestern State, before venturing out of Assembly Hall for the first time this season to face Boston College on December 1st. Friday night's game against Northwestern State will tip at 7:30 p.m.

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