Indiana opened its regular season in fashion with a dominating 88-49 win over Eastern Illinois on Friday night at Assembly Hall. Here are five things you should know from Friday's victory.
1. RARE DISPLAY OF DOMINANCE: I've been covering Indiana basketball for the last five years, and I can't remember anything close to the dominance the Hoosiers displayed against Eastern Illinois, especially in the first half. The numbers were just mind boggling.
- Indiana led 49-17 at halftime.
- The Hoosiers outscored EIU 27-3 over the final 8:22 of the first half.
- Indiana outrebounded EIU 26-6 in the first half.
- The Hoosiers grabbed the final 11 rebounds in the first half, holding EIU without a single rebound for the final 5:51. That's insane.
- Eastern Illinois didn't have a single offensive rebound in the first half.
- Eastern Illinois went 6:56 in between rebounds. Indiana had 15 boards during that stretch, including four in the first 55 seconds of the second half alone.
- In total, Indiana outrebounded Eastern Illinois 51-17, despite playing its bench for much of the second half.
- Five players finished with 7 or more rebounds for Indiana, including James Blackmon and Yogi Ferrell.
- Second-chance points: Indiana 26, Eastern Illinois 1.
It's Eastern Illinois, so don't go overboard with your expectations based on one game. But Indiana was clicking on all cylinders on Friday night, something I don't think I expected this early with so many newcomers. The Hoosiers (1-0) are so much deeper than they were a year ago, and that has to be exciting for Indiana fans.
Indiana's weaknesses last year -- defense and rebounding -- didn't look like weaknesses on Friday. Again, it's Eastern Illinois, a team ranked outside the top 200 by KenPom.com, but we can only analyze what we've seen to this point, and what we've seen has been quite impressive.
"We wanted to get our defense to a point where it was creating our offense for us," Indiana coach Tom Crean said afterward. "And our defense really created a lot of that for us. We were very, very aggressive throughout the night. I saw very little let-up, and we played with a lot of different lineups, especially in the second half. There's a lot of room for improvement on the defensive end, but to get this kind of start to the season at home, we're excited about that."
It's important for the Hoosiers that they work out the kinks earlier than in past years because there won't be a long string of cupcake games like there sometimes are. Indiana hosts Creighton out of the Big East in less than a week, and then heads to the Maui Invitational. This is quite a difficult non-conference schedule for Indiana, so easy blowouts like Friday will certainly not be the norm.
Tom Crean chose to start a little bit differently on Friday, going with a lineup of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, Troy Williams, Collin Hartman and Thomas Bryant. Hartman replaced Max Bielfeldt, who started both exhibition games. Bielfeldt was solid off the bench, however, finishing with 11 points (3-3 FG) and 8 rebounds in 15 minutes.
"We didn't decide to change the lineup until they put their lineup in," Crean said. "And that's maybe what's going to happen throughout the year. When you have numerous guys that are multi-dimensional that can play together, you're gonna be better. Max and Thomas together, or Max and Thomas separate, are key, key parts of our team. So they've got to be able to do both."
2. BRYANT'S (OFFICIAL) COLLEGIATE DEBUT: It didn't take long for Indiana fans to fall in love with Thomas Bryant.
The freshman McDonald's All-American made his collegiate debut on Friday night, and by the time he exited the game in the second half, the Indiana students were chanting his name.
Bryant finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds in 19 minutes, finishing just a rebound shy of a double-double. Bryant made all four of his shot attempts, and also blocked a shot. Bryant missed the final nine minutes of the first half after he picked up his second foul.
Bryant earned a technical foul in the second half when he dunked on Eastern Illinois' Trae Anderson. Bryant came down with his legs wrapped around Anderson, then stared him down afterward. Bryant reacted in frustration at the techincal, but the Assembly Hall crowd cheered him loudly, eventually chanting his name.
I thought Bryant deserved the techincal, personally, but that's who Bryant is, and you don't want to do too much to take away his enthusiasm and energy.
"Thomas plays with emotion," Crean said. "The whole key that you want any player, whether they're young or old, is not to play emotional. There's a big difference. He's got a tremendous spirit and a great enthusiasm, but he's learning. He's 18 years old and a couple of months, and played his first official college game. I was proud of him. I thought he handled it really well. But then we just decided, we're really watching his minutes anyway. But I kept him out there because he handled it well. He went back out and he settled in and he played. He's going to have to be in a lot of really tough, hostile, adverse situations this year, so the more he can learn from the game, the better he's gonna be.
"We'd certainly rather have a guy that, every once in awhile, you want to settle in, versus trying to get him to raise it up. That's a lot harder."
3. YOGI'S STREAK INTACT: It was in jeopardy for awhile, but senior guard Yogi Ferrell buried a 3-pointer late in the second half to extend his NCAA record streak to 66 games. Ferrell started the game 0-of-4 from beyond the arc, but Crean called a play designed to get Ferrell an open 3. Troy Williams brought the ball up the floor, Ferrell set a screen for Nick Zeisloft, then immediately popped to the top of the key for the 3.
Ferrell had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists with only one turnover in 28 minutes. Ferrell had 20 points in 33 minutes in IU's exhibition win over Bellarmine last Monday.
4. JOHNSON, BLACKMON FIND THEIR STROKES: Sophomore Robert Johnson tweaked his jump shot in the offseason, and it's paying off. Johnson shot the ball well from the perimeter a year ago, but assistant coach Tim Buckley thought he jumped a little too high on his release. Buckley worked with Johnson and encouraged him to jump less so he could find a consistent landing spot, and Johnson believed it has helped him.
Johnson buried a team-high four 3-pointers in Friday night's opener on six attempts, finishing with 12 points and three assists in 22 minutes.
"I look at him as a starter," Crean said. "We want to be two-deep, and when a guy is two-deep and can play numerous positions like he can, it creates even that much more value. But he's one of our best defenders, as is Yogi. So we've got to look at matchups ahead of time. He's getting better and better. He's as valuable as anybody else that we put out there. Who knows what's going to happen with who's going to start. I mean, I really don't know. I'm not looking at it that way this year."
James Blackmon was also impressive in the opener after he struggled in IU's final exhibition game last Monday. Blackmon had a game-high 17 points and 7 rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Blackmon had only two points in IU's exhibition win over Bellarmine.
5. EARLY MINUTES FOR O.G.: I don't see O.G. Anunoby being a significant contributor for Indiana this season, but he earned some valuable minutes on Friday night. Anunoby got time early in the first half, and he was quite active when he got his chance. The raw freshman forward had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 15 minutes. Anunoby missed all three of his free-throw attempts, however.
Anunoby has unique length and talent, and in time, Crean will turn him into a really good player in Bloomington. But he does need more time than IU's other freshmen, much like Victor Oladipo did when he arrived on campus.
"He works very hard. What he's doing out there is a lot more of his natural ability," Crean said. "I just want these guys to get a real vision of the game and make it simple. O.G. is going to learn that. He's efficient at doing a lot of different things because he's naturally there. He works extremely hard, he's learning a lot about defense, he's learning a lot about the speed of the game. His fundamentals and skills will continue to get there."
**Fan favorite Tim Priller scored two points at the end of the game, and the remaining Assembly Hall crowd erupted. The students chanted "We Want Priller" for several minutes before Crean finally obliged and put the sophomore in the game.
**Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh took a seat behind the Indiana bench for the final several minutes of the game. Harbaugh, Tom Crean's brother-in-law, is coaching against Indiana's football team in Bloomington on Saturday.
**Collin Hartman, Nick Zeisloft and Juwan Morgan were all held scoreless. Hartman got the start, but looked rusty. The Indianapolis native missed significant time in the last month due to a rib injury he suffered in practice. Hartman was 0-of-4 from the field and 0-of-2 from beyond the arc. Zeisloft missed his only field-goal attempt but had three assists and two rebounds, and Morgan didn't tally an statistics in seven minutes in his collegiate debut.
"We gotta get Collin going," Crean said. "He's missed a lot of time. He's missed valuable practice time, and he's trying to find his rhythm. He was in here this morning with us shooting at least 350-400 shots in the span of an hour. Plus walk-through, plus the game tonight. We're trying to help him find his rhythm. He is a valuable, valuable guy, and he can play with anybody on our team. Right now, it's just a matter of him getting more comfortable."