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Indiana proves it was underseeded in a blowout statement win over Chattanooga

Indiana felt slighted as a 5-seed, and the Hoosiers made a statement to the selection committee and the nation in a 99-74 win over Chattanooga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

DES MOINES, Iowa --- When Yogi Ferrell gets that look in his eye, you know he's getting ready to do something special.

I know that look from watching Ferrell play all the way back to his high school and AAU days. His teammates know it, too, and when they see it, they know Ferrell is about to challenge them to take their own games to another level.

Ferrell had that look in his eye when he came back out of the locker room after halftime on Thursday night. Ferrell saw 12th-seeded Yale upset 5-seed Baylor earlier Thursday, and he's been around long enough to know that upsets happen when you let inferior teams hang around.

So Ferrell -- dissatisfied with his team's first-half effort despite a 46-37 lead -- called his teammates together just before they went to the bench to begin the second half. A few players lingered near the bench, then ran to join the huddle when they realized it was forming. 

Ferrell stood in the middle, pointing, explaining, and speaking demonstratively as he let his teammates know they needed to bury Chattanooga (29-6), and quickly.

It looked like a guy who knows the end is close and who wasn't about to let it come on this night. It looked like the leader Tom Crean always wanted Ferrell to be but the leader Ferrell was not last season. 

Ferrell's teammates saw the look, heard his message, and accepted his challenge.

The Hoosiers (26-7) opened the second half on a 14-6 run to build their lead to 17 points, and they spent the rest of the night running 12th-seeded Chattanooga out of Iowa. 

Indiana 99, Chattanooga 74. Bring on the Final Four game ... er the round of 32 game against Kentucky. 

"Like you said with that look, we all know when Yogi has it," said freshman Juwan Morgan. "He's an excellent leader. He brought us all together, and we all knew what we had to do. This is a player-driven team, and it showed."

Remember all that talk about Chattanooga's dangerous press, stout defense and unique length? White noise, and nothing more. (As you would have known if you read my preview, but I digress.) 

Indiana methodically picked Chattanooga apart, scoring so easily they broke the arena's live-stat computer. [Well, not really, but kinda. And yeah, the live stats really were broken.]ds

"That's by far the best team we've faced all year and we've played some really, really good ones," said Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, whose team played Iowa State during the non-conference season. "We had no answer for anything they were doing offensively. There is no question that I think they're going to make a really deep run in this thing." 

The Hoosiers played like a team that was well rested, a little disrespected, and so, so happy they were finally playing a team from outside the Big Ten. The offense ran like a well-oiled machine, a sight that had to send a sharp jolt through Kentucky coach John Calipari, even if he doesn't watch it until Friday.

Indiana got production from everybody that played, including Robert Johnson. Johnson looked very good in his return from a sprained ankle that kept him out a few weeks. He came off the bench and played 22 minutes, scoring 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting with 6 assists and 0 turnovers. Johnson showed no signs of rust despite the layoff, which was one of the most important developments of Thursday night for Indiana. 

The Hoosiers will need Johnson to be at his best to take down the rival Wildcats on Saturday, and judging from his play on Thursday, he will be.

"Having that time off, it really helped my body," Johnson said. "And then it helped me see the game and helped slow it down for me to see where we could get better and I could get better." 

This was basically a 3 v. 14 game, only Indiana gets to play an underseeded 4-seed in the second round. Still don't think the NCAA did this on purpose? If you do, you're a silly goose. This is really a Sweet 16 matchup we'll just be seeing a week too early, a round of 32 renewed rivalry game that everybody will be watching.

But hey, the NCAA isn't about making money, right? 


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