Sophomore center Cody Zeller had 22 points and nine rebounds while sophomore guard Remy Abell and freshman swingman Jeremy Hollowell added 14 points each to lead Indiana to an 87-61 win over North Dakota State on Monday in front of 17,145 at Assembly Hall in the Legends Classic.
The Bison appeared bound and determined to slow the pace of the game, packing the middle and playing as physical as possible with Zeller to limit his touches. However, the Hoosiers caused 16 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them, using their defense to create a pace that was much more to their liking.
“A lot of teams try to slow it down,” Abell said. “For instance, a team like Wisconsin, they want to slow it down. It’s good that we can play both styles. If you want to run, we can run. If you want to slow it down, then we gotta hunker down on the defensive end. That’s when defense is important. It’s just as important when you want to run, but it’s definitely important when a team just wants to slow it down. You’ve gotta get those crucial stops.”
The Hoosiers also had success with a smaller lineup, which will be critical in the early going as they wait on the return of injured senior forward Derek Elston and suspended freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin. The Hoosiers at one point used a lineup made up almost entirely of wings with junior Will Sheehey as the power forward and the 6-8, 217-pound Hollowell playing center, but still had success.
“It didn’t become about match-ups as much as it just came about putting guys out there and saying let’s go because you know we may need to do the same thing next Monday and Tuesday,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We may need to do the same thing against Ball State and North Carolina. It doesn’t make a difference because we’re not dealing with a stacked deck right now when you look at our front line so we’ve just got to go play and I thought they did a pretty good job with that.”
Senior guard Jordan Hulls knocked down three 3-pointers and had 11 points and four assists. Junior guard Victor Oladipo recorded seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. North Dakota State big man Marshall Bjorklund had 16 points and guard Mike Felt had 11, but none of the other Bison scored in double digits and the Hoosiers held them to 41.1 percent shooting.
The Bison kept the pace choppy for most of the first half, but Indiana still shot 51.9 percent in the first period and led 42-29 at the break. North Dakota State cut the deficit to nine points early in the first half, but a 19-8 run put Indiana up by 20 points and they never led by fewer than 18 the rest of the way.
Abell was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-3 from the 3-point arc. He hasn’t missed a shot yet this season and has gone over double-digits in both games.
The outside shooting performance is a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t that he shot poorly from beyond the arc last season — his 3-point dagger against Purdue ranks as one of the most critical shots of the season — it was just that he didn’t shoot much. He was 6-for-15 from 3-point range of the season.
But this summer, that was one of his biggest points of emphasis, and the payoff for that has been immediate. Crean said Abell went home to Louisville instead of staying in Bloomington for the first summer session to work with one of his former coaches at Eastern High School and according to Crean “stayed in the gym all the time.” He already has one fewer 3-pointer than he hit all of last season.
“That was definitely something big for me,” Abell said. “I know I can get to the rim, but with my teammates and coaching staff, that really helped me work on my jump shot, getting extra shots, doing stuff like that. It’s definitely carried over through the game, trying to shoot with confidence, stay in my shot, do the fundamentals.”
Said sophomore center Cody Zeller: “He’s been doing that all summer. He isn’t surprising. He’s made a lot of improvements. He was big for us for a couple of games last year and he kind of carried it over into the summer.”