INDIANAPOLIS --- It was a big focus all week. And why wouldn’t it be?
Rebounding has been a weakness for the Hoosiers throughout much of the season. It wouldn’t get any easier Saturday against a Butler team that had 29 offensive rebounds in its win over then-No. 5 North Carolina earlier in the season.
Thanks to Indiana’s frontcourt of Troy Williams and Hanner Mosquera-Perea, the Hoosiers finished with a 48-40 rebounding edge in their 82-73 win over the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs in Saturday’s Crossroads Classic matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It’s obvious,” Crean said. “We have to win the rebounding game with the way Butler rebounds the ball … They both did a great job there.”
Williams had arguably his best performance as a Hoosier, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the win.
His aggressiveness gave Indiana a much-needed edge, as he constantly crashed the boards throughout the afternoon.
“It’s just toughness,” Williams said. “The game against Louisville, me and Hanner didn’t really rebound good and it showed. It started with practice the next two days (after that), then Grand Canyon. We just keep getting better.”
In the Louisville game, Williams and Mosquera-Perea combined for six rebounds.
Mosquera-Perea finished with eight points and nine rebounds on Saturday. Those nine rebounds were his second-highest total of the season since grabbing 12 against Mississippi Valley State in IU’s season opener.
Mosquera-Perea was also able to stay out of foul trouble, which had been affecting his ability to perform with confidence and consistency on the court.
With Saturday’s effort, Perea has averaged 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game over his last two games.
“Their confidence has skyrocketed,” Indiana junior guard Yogi Ferrell said. “Coming right now, this turning point, especially going into the Big Ten season, this is exactly what we need. Guys like that going in, playing with great toughness, rebounding, playing smart. Those are our two key guys we need down there for us.”
Williams’ 11 rebounds were a season high. Before the game against Butler, his previous season-high for rebounds was nine against Eastern Washington on Nov. 24.
He said part of what has led to the improvement has been the things the team has done in practice.
“Today it was more of getting to the basket, not settling as much and running in transition,” Williams said. “The scout said if I run, it would be hard to stop me. That’s what I did, run the floor, and it seemed to come true.”
Butler senior forward Kameron Woods, who had 12 of the Bulldogs’ 40 rebounds, credited Indiana’s physicality for its success on the glass.
“I don’t really think it was anything special or any scheme to get rebounds,” Woods said. “I just think they wanted to be really physical, and, in the first half, they were able to get a lot of offensive rebounds.”
There’s no question that both Williams and Mosquera-Perea will be critical to Indiana’s success the rest of the season.
“We’ve made progress, and we’ve got to keep making progress,” Crean said. “It’s a lot like Hanner. Every day you want them to be better than what they were. It sounds corny but it’s the absolute truth.
“They can’t get ahead of themselves, and we’ve got to keep holding them to that standard that they’re raising everyday.”Williams, Ferrell lead IU past Butler, 82-73
COLUMN: Ferrell leads IU to big win
Tidbits: Should IU be ranked?