It was a tough week for the Indiana basketball team, but the focus finally returned to basketball on Thursday night. IU opened its two-game exhibition season with a 94-70 win over Northwood University at Assembly Hall.
Here are five things we learned from Indiana's first game of the season.
1. James Blackmon Jr. CAN FLAT-OUT SCORE: OK, so many of us already knew this before Thursday night's game, but still, it needs to be said. Blackmon Jr. didn't need much time to get acclimated in his first collegiate game. He attacked from the very beginning, and he never let up.
Blackmon Jr.'s final line: 26 points (game-high), 7-11 FG, 10-10 FT, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 26 minutes. If he had jitters, he sure didn't show it.
"That's pretty natural for him, to be honest with you," Indiana coach Tom Crean said afterward. "He is a natural scorer. He is an effortless shooter. His release, his technique, he's so well-coached by his father. He's got a maturity about him because he's got a seriousness about him. He doesn't take himself too seriously, but he takes his craft real serious, he takes his academics real serious."
I said before the season that I believed Blackmon Jr. would be the Hoosiers' leading scorer this season, and I saw nothing on Thursday night that would change that assessment. Blackmon Jr. doesn't have to have the ball in his hands all that often because of Yogi Ferrell and Robert Johnson, which allows him to use more energy when he does have the ball. Blackmon Jr. is as natural a scorer as Indiana has had since Eric Gordon, and I expect him to have some huge games this season.
"It felt really good to play my first game here," Blackmon Jr. said. "I feel like my teammates gave me the confidence I needed to get going, and once I got involved, I felt like it got better for me."
Zeisloft, a junior, finished with 24 points and six rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Zeisloft, like Blackmon Jr., made all 10 of his free-throw attempts.
I likened Zeisloft to Jordan Hulls during the summer, and I think fans got a chance to see why I made that comparison. Zeisloft has a quick release, and he shoots he as soon as it touches his hand if he ever has a little space. That remains true even if he's missed two or three in a row.
"Shooters know that you just gotta let the last one go and you gotta stay with it," Zeisloft said.
Zeisloft is a confident shooter, and he seems to bring a sort of calming presence to the floor because he's been there before. It's important that Zeisloft produce on the floor this year because he will be relied upon to be one of Indiana's main leaders, and it's much easier to listen to a guy that's producing than one that's not.
"He's got a great mindset, there's a maturity about him," Crean said. "He's getting more comfortable in a leadership role here. So I'm not surprised by how he played."
3. SUSPENDED PLAYERS NOT ON BENCH: Crean opted to make his three suspended players -- Emmitt Holt, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams -- watch the game from the locker room instead of the bench. Crean said the players were responsible for keeping charts, and each player had a chance to address the team for "30-45 seconds" at halftime and then again after the game.
"I want them to learn a lot of things," Crean said. "I want them to learn that not only is it a privilege to play on the court, it's a privilege to be out there supporting your teammates. I may change my mind on that as we go down the road, we'll see. But it hurts when you can't be out there to support your teammates and be a part of that. But I felt like, at this point, that was part of it."
Holt, Williams and Robinson will each miss three more games.
4. MOSQUERA-PEREA GETS DOUBLE-DOUBLE: The Hoosiers will need a lot out of junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea this season. For at least one night, they got it.
Mosquera-Perea finished with a double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds, in a career-high 33 minutes. He had never played more than 15 minutes.
Sure, it was against Northwood University, but Mosquera-Perea was a monster on the boards, and that was good to see. He also buried a 15-foot baseline jumper, something I've never seen him do in practice, a scrimmage, or a game. That's progress.
What I didn't like: Mosquera-Perea had a team-high four turnovers, an area he has struggled with in his two-plus years at IU. He doesn't have the softest hands, and he often panics when he has the ball in traffic.
For Mosquera-Perea, it's about taking small steps forward at this point, which he is doing. But there's also the cruel reality that Mosquera-Perea is Indiana's only true big man, and he must produce consistently. With Devin Davis still in the hospital, and Emmitt Holt out due to suspension, Mosquera-Perea becomes even more important.
Ryan Burton and Tim Priller simply aren't reliable options inside. If Indiana wants to return to the NCAA Tournament this year, Mosquera-Perea will have to keep taking steps forward, like he did Thursday night.
5. FERRELL HAS IMPROVED: For those of you looking at the final box score saying: 'Huh? Neither of the two leading scorers was named Yogi Ferrell? What's wrong with him?'
The answer: Absolutely nothing.
While his scoring numbers may suggest otherwise, Ferrell has made improvements. He opened the game by attacking the rim and kicking the ball out to his teammates, doing his best to make sure his teammates felt involved early. Ferrell had three pretty assists in the first half, and then began to look for his own offense after that.
The junior point guard finished with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds, and he turned the ball over only two times in 34 minutes. That's a good ratio, especially given the amount of time he had the ball in his hands.
If I'm critical about anything Ferrell did on Thursday night, it's that he missed the front end of a one-and-one on two separate occasions. That's essentially four points lost. Ferrell must get better in that area.Indiana beats Northwood 94-70 in exhibition game
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