Indiana moved to 2-0 in Big Ten play with a 79-69 win at Nebraska on Saturday afternoon. Both wins have come on the road for the Hoosiers, a feat they hadn't accomplished in conference play since the 2012-13 season. Indiana is 12-3 overall. Here are 5 things you need to know following IU's 7th straight win.
1. WHEN YOGI FEELS IT, WATCH OUT: A couple times every year, Yogi Ferrell starts to feel it on the offensive end. It happened against Maryland at home last season, when he buried 7-of-8 shots from beyond the arc. It happened against Michigan at home two years ago, when he accomplished the same feat.
Well, Yogi felt it again on Saturday, and when he feels it, there isn't a player in college basketball that can stop him. Ferrell poured in a game-high 24 points against Nebraska on 8-of-13 shooting and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. The senior guard also handed out 7 assists.
With James Blackmon Jr. out for the second straight game (knee), Ferrell has to take on more of the scoring load, and he did against the Huskers. He still has to take better care of the ball, though. Ferrell had 4 more turnovers on Saturday, giving him 10 in the first two Big Ten games. He's been in too much of a hurry at times this season, leading to an increase in turnovers, especially on jump passes and/or passes from the baseline.
2. O.G. IS SHOCKING EVERYONE: I consider myself a pretty good judge of basketball talent, and O.G. Anunoby has always had that. The buzz words for him have consistently been "potential" and "athleticism." But Anunoby, a 3-star recruit, seemed like more of a long-term project than an instant contributor. That was my opinion.
So far, I've been wrong. Dead wrong.
Anunoby isn't just contributing of late, he's become an essential piece to this team -- if it's possible for a guy that wasn't playing much two weeks ago to be an essential piece. Consider these numbers:
- In 13 non-conference games, Anunoby had 24 points, 21 rebounds, 10 turnovers, 4 steals and 1 3-pointer.
- In 2 Big Ten games, Anunoby has 19 points, 10 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 4 steals and 3 3-pointers.
That is insane. Against mostly cupcakes, Anunoby averaged less than 2 points and 2 rebounds per game. In two conference road games, he produced nearly 10 points and 5 rebounds per game. Bizarre. Nuts. Crazy. But so, so encouraging for Indiana and its fans. Anunoby has clearly worked very hard to accelerate his development. He's a terrific defender, and he's even burying 3-pointers, something Anunoby struggled to do in high school.
Against Nebraska, Anunoby had 11 points in 11 minutes on 4-of-4 shooting, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. If he continues to post numbers like that, the Hoosiers will be a much better -- and more dangerous -- team.
3. BRYANT BOUNCES BACK: Anunoby was so good on Saturday that he almost overshadowed his fellow freshman, Thomas Bryant. After a foul-plagued conference debut at Rutgers on Wednesday in which he played only 6 minutes and scored only 3 points, Bryant bounced back in a big way against Nebraska. The former McDonald's All-American had 19 points (8-10 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and an assist in 29 minutes.
"It was a tough game at Rutgers, but I knew if I just stuck with it, I'd bounce back," Bryant said afterward.
"What we did was put him right back in the gym at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning," Tom Crean said. "I don't want to go through and say what I thought was a foul and not a foul because I don't want to be disrespectful to the officials, but we weren't that concerned when we watched the film. The last thing you wanna talk about is the negatives. You want to get right into what's going to correct it. People forget Cody Zeller, his first Big Ten game, we were at Michigan State, and it was very, very hard."
The teams were allowed to play much more physical on Saturday than they were in Indiana's game at Rutgers, so Bryant never got in foul trouble. But the inconsistency between what is a foul and what is not in college basketball is ridiculous, and thus Bryant could easily find himself in early foul trouble when the Hoosiers host Wisconsin on Tuesday night. How are teenagers supposed to know what they can and can't do if each set of officials calls the game drastically different?
Bryant's ability to stay out of foul trouble was huge for IU on Saturday, and it has become one of the biggest key for the Hoosiers this season. They are a much different team when he is on the floor, even though he still struggles on the defensive end.
4. DIFFERENT CONTRIBUTORS: Great teams almost always have several guys capable of being the team's best player on a given night, and the Hoosiers are showing signs of starting to develop that. Max Bielfeldt was terrific against Rutgers when Bryant struggled, and Bryant bounced back against Nebraska as Bielfeldt played a much smaller role. Anunoby produced on a day when the Hoosiers got little from Robert Johnson, and only 8 points from Troy Williams. And I have yet to mention Blackmon, the team's second-leading scorer.
Last year, Ferrell often had to do far too much for the Hoosiers, and IU struggled in those games. If Indiana is to compete with the elite teams in the Big Ten, it will be important for guys like Anunoby, Bielfeldt, Bryant and others to consistently produce so Ferrell doesn't always have to.
5. BLACKMON STILL OUT: Blackmon missed his second straight game on Saturday due to a knee injury he suffered in practice last Monday. Tom Crean didn't offer much of an update on the sophomore guard, but play-by-play man Don Fischer said on the pregame radio show that Blackmon would miss a few games.
"Truly still in an evaluation stage right now. It's still being evaluated," Crean said. "I'm not being evasive when I say he's still being evaluated. He truly is."