COLUMN: Ferrell wills Indiana to big win

When Indiana needed him most, Yogi Ferrell stepped up and led the Hoosiers to a critical win over No. 23 Butler.

INDIANAPOLIS --- Indiana wasn't quite dead in the water, but it was nearing that point.

The Hoosiers' 10-point lead had wasted away. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana's leading scorer, couldn't get anything to go. Butler was starting to get any look it wanted on the offensive end, and the Bulldogs looked to be headed for their second straight win over the in-state foe.

Butler led 53-47 with 13:48 to go. The Bulldogs had all the momentum. If the lead swells to 10 or 12, the game is all but over. Yogi Ferrell refused to let that happen.

Ferrell took the game over from that point and simply willed the Hoosiers to an important win over the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs.

Indiana 82, Butler 73.

"Guys were trying to tell me to take over the game," Ferrell said afterward. "I was just trying to look for my shot, whatever we needed."

Ferrell scored all 20 of his points in the second half, including 10 straight after the Hoosiers (9-2) fell behind 53-47. When his team needed him most, Ferrell put his teammates on his back and carried them home. That's what leaders do.

Many have questioned whether Ferrell is capable of being the leader Indiana needs him to be. The skepticism is fair given Ferrell's contribution to the program's off-court issues.

But we learn who can lead and who can't in the tough moments when the odds are against you. On Saturday, Ferrell was at his best in such moments, and he gave a strong answer to those who question his leadership ability.

"His leadership has come a long way," said Butler guard Kellen Dunham, who led the Bulldogs with 23 points. "You can see him commanding his guys out there. I see a lot of improvement in his game and I'm very happy for him."

Tom Crean chose to start the game with Ferrell guarding Dunham, Butler's leading scorer, and Ferrell picked up two quick fouls. The Indiana junior played only nine minutes in the first half and didn't score.

"It was almost like a hot air balloon got the air taken out of it when he got that second foul," Crean said. "I felt bad for him, but we knew we'd close the game with him on Dunham and we wanted to start the game right with him on Dunham."

Ferrell may have initially felt bad for himself, too, but he didn't let his foul situation take him out of the game. Rather than pouting, Ferrell led his team from the bench. All the while, he grew hungrier and hungrier to take over the game in the second half.

And he did it on both ends of the floor.

After scoring 18 points in the first half, Dunham had only five in the second, due in large part to Ferrell's defensive effort.

"He doesn't get nearly the national credit that he deserves for what kind of two-way player he is," Crean said. "It doesn't matter who we ask him to guard, he'll take that matchup. No matter what we did defensively, he was that catalyst for it."

Ferrell hardly did it alone on Saturday -- Troy Williams was terrific all afternoon -- but he was the one that picked his team up off the mat when it was close to being knocked out. He refused to let his team lose to Butler again, refused to let his teammates lose faith.

Put simply: He led.

"Whatever it takes," Ferrell said. "Whether it's on the court or from the bench."

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