Indiana started slow but cruised to an 90-65 victory over in-state foe IPFW on Wednesday night at Assembly Hall. It was one of the smaller and quieter crowds at the Hall in recent memory, but the Hoosiers (7-3) eventually broke out of an early slump and posted some individual performances that made the game worth writing about.
1. YOGI'S CAREER NIGHT: Yogi Ferrell has had a decorated four-year career at Indiana, but he soared to an even higher level on Wednesday night. Ferrell finished with a career-high 38 points (12-18 FG, 4-8 3s, 10-10 FT), 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 35 minutes. Ferrell was absolutely feeling it in the second half, when he had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Ferrell's previous carrer-high of 30 points came against Illinois two years ago.
"I was surprised myself when some of the shots went in because I couldn't even see the rim," Ferrell said afterward. "Basically my mindset was just to attack."
Ferrell is now 14th on Indiana's all-time list with 1,550 career points. Ferrell's 38 points are the most in a single game during the Tom Crean era. Ferrell was only four points shy of Steve Alford's school record of 42 points.
"Man, I wish I could have got that," Ferrell said. "It would have been fun to get, just to break the record. But I'm not trying to force shots, just took what the defense was giving me. But I'll keep that in mind next time."
2. PEAK TROY: I've been battling a cold this week, and I bought some Robotussin called "Peak Cold" earlier Wednesday. The medicine is designed to hit all the key symptoms of a cold when they are at their highest point.
I thought that perfectly described Troy Williams' game on Wednesday night. Williams finished with 15 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, and a career-high 5 blocks, but he also matched a career-high with 6 turnovers and shot just 4-of-11 from the field. Williams missed multiple layups, and chucked two contested 3-pointers.
So you got plenty of Good Troy and Bad Troy against IPFW, but the good outweighed the bad. Williams' 19 boards were the most by an Indiana player since Cody Zeller had 19 in 2012.
"That's the Swiss Army Knife," Crean said. "The guy that can do all those different things and do them at a pretty high level. He was absolutely obsessed with the glass.
"Troy responds to different things. He responded tonight. Doesn't mean he's going to get 19 boards every night, but he was all over the court, which is what we need from him, and that's when he's at his best."
It was the first time this season that we saw Williams rebound as aggressively as he is capable this season. Indiana needs plenty more of that rebounding and less of the reckless driving going forward.
3. BRYANT'S NIGHT TO FORGET: It seemed like big man Thomas Bryant was turning a corner when he dominated Creighton at home in the Gavitt Games, but we've been reminded in recent games that he's still only a freshman. Bryant had a rough night against IPFW. He finished with only four points, two rebounds and four turnovers in 18 minutes. Freshman walk-on guard Harrison Niego had more boards (4) than Bryant did.
Bryant, like most freshmen, has been inconsistent this season. But it's still early, and Indiana is depending on him for so much, so expect him to get more and more comfortable as the season goes on.
"Did he have an off night, by your estimation? See, you're looking at the stat sheet," Crean said. "I don't just look at the stat sheet. He made adjustments inside of the game. He had to adjust to the pick and roll. It's real easy to look at the stat sheet and say that he had an off night.
"His confidence will be just fine. He's dealing with injury situations and things like that that are internal that he has to get through. We keep trying to help him through all of that. He's just scratching the surface. But for us to be a really good team, he's got to get more than four points and two boards."
Translating Crean's comments: He was sticking up for his player who clearly hasn't been himself of late due to lingering injuries. It was clearly an off night for Bryant, but Crean didn't want to blame his player, who's still trying to get healthy. Fair enough.
4. NIEGO'S CHANCE: As I mentioned above, walk-on Harrison Niego outrebounded Bryant on Wednesday night, but it wasn't just in mop-up minutes late. Due to early foul trouble to both James Blackmon and Robert Johnson, Niego played extended first-half minutes and held his own. Niego didn't score in 12 minutes, but he did have four rebounds and an assist. Niego also had a +/ of +10, the fifth-highest on the team.
"He played more minutes in one night than he's played the whole time," Crean said. "He had to pregame meal early because he had to go take a final. I'm not surprised that he played that way. He's a very confident young man, and at his age, he was always a leader. He played to his personality and made our team better tonight."
5. JOHNSON'S PERFECT SHOOTING: Indiana guard Robert Johnson finished with 16 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. And that was in only 22 minutes due to first-half foul trouble. Johnson has really played well of late, and he has been in the starting lineup for the last two games.
"A lot of the shots that I got were wide open," Johnson said. "You can't miss a lot of those."
I would argue that Johnson should continue to get more minutes, not only because of his offensive productivity and hot shooting, but also because of his on-ball defense. Johnson is Indiana's best perimeter defender, and as Blackmon continues to struggle in that area, Johnson should assume some of his playing time.