1. A WIN IS A WIN: Pessimists and Tom Crean critics will sell Sunday's narrow win as a loss. They'll tell you it's the latest sign that the Hoosiers are sinking after a hot start, that IU got out coached, and that IU should have won by much more than three points.
Last week against Rutgers, I could see some of the pessimism. Indiana played poorly against a bad team at home after losing two straight on the road. It was cause for concern. I just don't feel the same way about Sunday's game.
Here's why: What Michigan did Sunday was the same thing it did at Michigan State last week, and the same thing it did against Wisconsin two weeks ago. They injury-plagued Wolverines (13-11, 6-6 Big Ten) took both of those teams to overtime despite their lack of talent. They found ways to stay in the game, and they did it again at Assembly Hall on Sunday.
Indiana led the whole way, and it was able to earn a much-needed win. There were certainly times when the Hoosiers could have put Michigan away -- they led by 11 two different times in the second half -- but the Wolverines have a way of staying in games they have no business being in. That's what they do.
"That's our story," Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. "We're getting a little tired of it, to be honest with you. But it beats the alternative of giving in."
Some conference wins will be pretty, like Indiana's emphatic home win over Maryland. Many others will be far from pretty, but they're equally as important to the bottom line. And the bottom line is this:
Indiana has matched its win total from last year, both overall (17) and in the Big Ten (7). And the Hoosiers have done so with seven games remaining in the regular season, many of them winnable. Regardless how they looked, or what the final score was, that's the most important thing. Indiana has played its toughest schedule at the beginning of conference play, and it has emerged with a 7-4 record.
Nobody predicted that.
"We didn't really look too much where everybody picked us," Yogi Ferrell said Sunday. "They picked us low in the Big Ten. Expectations are high. Just gave us a little bit extra chip on our shoulder to go out there and prove everybody wrong. They don't know us. But they're getting ready to find out."
2. YOGI KEEPS GRINDING: He doesn't get a ton of talk nationally, but Yogi Ferrell has had as good a year as most anybody in college basketball. If you ever see a replay of an IU game on the Big Ten Network and watch it for a second time, pay attention to everything Ferrell does over the course of a game. He often makes it look easy so it goes unappreciated, but Ferrell is a special, special player.
Ferrell continued to play well against Michigan, going for 18 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds on Sunday. He played 38 minutes and spent much of the game guarding the 6-foot-7 Zak Irvin.
"Yogi is such a good player," Beilein said. "I've been in this league for eight years now, and there's few point guards that I could say played as well as he's playing right now. He made big shots, he made big passes. We had a double team late in that 1-3-1 zone, he split the double team and got a layup for them. Really a high level IQ."
3. WILLIAMS' DUNK SHOW: His best one didn't count, but Troy Williams put on a dunk show on Sunday afternoon. He lived around and above the rim, and made a living out of the short corner.
Williams had a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds, and he played mistake-free basketball in the second half after committing four turnovers in the first half.
On the difference for him in the second half, Williams said: "The short alley. Just stayed in, kept moving, got back cuts, dunks, got fouled a couple times."
4. BLACKMON, MOSQUERA-PEREA RETURN: Freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing Tuesday's game at Wisconsin with an ankle injury. Blackmon looked fine in his return, scoring 13 points and pulling down eight rebounds in 30 minutes. He had only 1 point and 2 rebounds in the second half, however.
"I was so excited to get back out there," Blackmon said. "It was so hard to sit out, especially against Wisconsin since they're the top team."
Mosquera-Perea, who hadn't played since Jan. 10 due to a knee injury he suffered in practice, returned ahead of schedule and played four minutes against Michigan. He didn't score, but had a rebound and seemed to move around comfortably. It's good for the Hoosiers to ease him back into the rotation well before the postseason.
5. IRVIN BIG IN RETURN TO HOME STATE: Zak Irvin has had an up-and-down sophomore season for Michigan, but the Hamilton Southeastern product always seems to bring his best against Indiana.
Irvin kept the Wolverines in the game in the second half on Sunday, scoring 18 of his game-high 23 points after halftime. Irvin made 9-of-16 shots from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, including a deep, fadeaway 3 that cut Indiana's lead to two points in the closing seconds.