Troy Williams used the big stage at Madison Square Garden to show off his abilities Thursday night in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic.
The freshman from Hampton, Va. scored a season-high 22 points. He hit 8-of-12 shots from the field, 8-of-10 inside of the 3-point line, and had eight rebounds in Indiana's 102-84 victory over Washington.
With Williams, it has always been about ‘when' rather than ‘if' he would have that first big breakout game. In the first four games, he had scored a total of 40 points. He had at least eight in every game and a high of 13 against Chicago State.
Senior forward Will Sheehey said when you are active on defense that translates into offense. He also said the freshman simply seems to have a knack of being around the rim.
"He's a similar player like Victor (Oladipo) was for us last year where he's just always at the right place at the right time,'' Sheehey said. He's underneath the basket. As long as he's around the basket at both ends of the floor, he's just going to continue to get those kinds of points for us.''
Williams' five-game totals now have him as the third leading scorer on the IU team behind Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh. Ferrell is averaging 19.6 points per game, Vonleh is at 15.4 and Williams checks in at 12.4.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said the key for Williams was that he got better within the game. He said it all helps that Williams is so fundamentally sound.
"He is so talented and he just epitomizes what we're trying to get done right now with keeping the game simple,'' Crean said. "And there's nothing simple about his explosiveness. He's making simple, fundamental basketball plays. He is making back cuts, simple passes, and he's ready to shoot. Things like that and then all of a sudden you see him come down the lane and get that dunk or miss the one dunk that he had, I mean that was incredible. He just got better as the game went on and I think he just keeps getting more comfortable. He has gotten more comfortable being able to use both hands after injuring the one hand early.''
FERRELL DOES IT ALL ONCE AGAIN
It's easy to look at Yogi Ferrell's game and think that the sophomore guard has simply turned it up on the offensive end and looking for his shot more.
In the last three games alone, Ferrell has scored 70 points with all three games going over the magic 20-point plateau. Last season, in 36 games, Ferrell's scoring high was 19.
But Yogi does so much more that. He gets his teammates involved, he looks for extra pass and he waits for an opening – and then takes it.
"Yogi just continues to get his teammates opportunities and make them better early in the game,'' Crean said. "He takes what the defense gives him and then all of sudden things just open up for him. He's playing at such a high level. Everything is about finding guys and then all of a sudden he's standing there numerous times where he has a chance to make a play at the rim, make a play with a pull up, make a play with the three, make a play with the shot clock, in transition, whatever it is.''
Ferrell didn't shoot the ball particularly well (he was 5-for-13 from the field) but he made big shots. He had 20 points and five assists with just one turnover. He was 7-of-8 from the foul line, too.
The assist-to-turnover ratio in his five games is probably the most important statistic. He has 23 assists and 10 turnovers, an average of 2.0 turnovers per game. And he's averaging 30.2 minutes per game.
FREE THROWS ARE A KEY
Crean was left scratching his head last Sunday when IU made 30-of-49 foul shots against Stony Brook. Of those 19 misses, Indiana missed 13 free throws in the first half alone.
Thursday, Indiana was solid at the line once again. It made 31-of-36 foul shots. The Hoosiers hit 16-of-18 from the line in the first half and 15-of-18 in the second half.
"We always want to establish attacking the rim, looking for drop offs and kicks and reversals,'' Ferrell said. "We want to make them make long close outs for drives. We just wanted to establish that free throw line for us.''
Indiana has done that for certain in the first five games. The Hoosiers have already been to the free throw line 198 times this season, an average of nearly 40 per game. IU is shooting 73 percent but with more nights like Thursday that number will just continue to rise.
THE LAST TWO PLUS YEARS
Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Indiana is 61-16 which is second in the Big Ten with a .789 winning percentage.
The Hoosiers are 12-8 in true road games, 22-13 away from Assembly Hall and 38-3 at home.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch