After Indiana's 17-point loss at home to Michigan State two weeks ago, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo called out Yogi Ferrell, along with Will Sheehey, saying that the duo needed to step up to the task of leading a young IU squad.
But in three of his last four halves of basketball, Ferrell has shown more evidence of his sophomore standing than IU fans may be used to.
Saturday afternoon in a 54-47 loss to Northwestern, Ferrell scored just nine points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field in his first game of the season where IU's leading scorer failed to hit double figures in points.
Ferrell and the Hoosiers struggled all around the floor, shooting just 15-for-60 from the field for a dismal 25 percent shooting in the loss. Arguably IU's most consistent shooter from all over the court this season, Ferrell has struggled with his touch over the last two games.
In IU's upset of Wisconsin Tuesday, Ferrell hit just 2-of-9 shots from the field in the first half, missing layups and jumpers alike. His brief resurgence in the second half where he was 8-for-15 from the floor propelled the Hoosiers to a win, although six of his seven misses came off of 3-pointers.
He seemed to continue to force jumpers Saturday as well, missing three of his four 3-pointers, but an even bigger issue came on his easier looks. Ferrell missed five layups Saturday – including four in the first half while IU compiled just 19 points - and looked puzzled at how to attack Northwestern's Alex Olah driving into the post.
Instead, he and his teammates tried to work back into the game with the help of the jump shot, a method IU head coach Tom Crean has said numerous times this season that his team can't do.
"Some jump shots, I think we did force them," Ferrell said. "I know I did personally."
Crean didn't call any of his players out after IU's loss, but it appeared that some of his shots were directed towards his starting point guard's inability to score and lead his teammates through rough stretches of the contest.
"We have a long way to go, and I can't just put it on the youth," Crean said. "We didn't have some of the older guys playing as well. As a team, we did not have the hunger that you need to play with on a daily basis be where it needed to be."
The Hoosiers fell behind by as many as nine points in the first half, but they managed to muster a run to pull ahead 38-35, but Northwestern's Tre Demps scored 15 of his team's final 19 in the last 7:15 to lead the Wildcats to victory.
For much of that run, Ferrell was in charge of guarding the 6-foot-2-inch sophomore guard, and his defense wasn't up to the task. Crean has said numerous times during his tenure that defense fuels offense, and he said after the loss that players like Ferrell were looking to get going on offense without letting their defensive energy fuel a run.
"What happened at that point is when guys aren't making shots offensively, it affects their defense," Crean said. "Where we have so far to go is you can't be driven by your offense in the sense of if your offense is not here, if affects every other part of your game, and that happened too much, and it happened with our older guys.
"It happened with – I'm not going to use the term leader, because I don't think we appeared like there was a leader today - but with guys that get the bulk of the attention, the shots and things like that. We were ineffective on the defensive end."