Senior forward Christian Watford scored 23 points coming off the bench for just the second time in his career, junior swingman Will Sheehey scored 18 points starting in his place, and senior guard Jordan Hulls recorded 10 points and five assists to become the 44th Indiana player to record 1,000 career points, as the Hoosiers pounded Sam Houston State 99-45 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Thursday night.
The No. 1 Hoosiers took control early and annihilated Sam Houston State in all facets of the game. They made 56.6 percent of their shots (30-for-53) while Sam Houston State made just 30.2 percent of theirs (16-for-53). Indiana won the rebounding battle 45-23, scored 38 points in the paint to Sam Houston State’s 14, 29 points off turnovers to Sam Houston State’s four, and 15 fast-break points to Sam Houston’s State’s two.The Hoosiers had 24 assists on 30 baskets and turned the ball over just nine times. Sam Houston State had five assists and 19 turnovers.
Not a single Sam Houston State player scored in double figures.
“I thought we had passion,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “Played with a lot of passion. We always play hard. We always work extremely hard. I had no complaints with that whatsoever. But when energy, toughness, and passion are all together, you have a chance to be really good. We were. We had 74 deflections tonight. We had the rebounding numbers. I know we had the assist-turnover ratio. We had 24 assists on the 30 field goals, we had great energy.”
Crean said he particularly liked the effort of Watford, who did not start the game because Crean was trying to motivate him. He scored his game-high 23 points on 5-for-8 shooting. He made all three of his 3-pointers and all 10 of his free throws while grabbing six rebounds and recording two assists, a block and two steals.
According to Crean’s count, he also had 13 “deflections.”
“We just wanted to make a little energy change,” Crean said. “I think he played with as much energy as anyone on the court tonight. It showed up in his numbers. I gotta believe he feels good about the way he played, and I’m looking at it and saying those 13 deflections were huge.”
Sheehey, who started in Watford’s place, had 18 points, five rebounds and two assists. Oladipo ad 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Though Zeller was sick and has not practiced with the Hoosiers since Monday, he ad 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Ferrell had just three points, but also seven steals and no turnovers.
Hulls hit a 3-pointer in the second half to get to 10 points and 1,000 for his career. He was pulled from the game shortly after so that the fans could give him a standing ovation, but said he didn’t know at the time why.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to do that,” Hulls said, with his aw-shucks tone adding to the moment. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m not really into my personal accolades as long as the team wins, but it’s a pretty cool club to be a part of.”
Hulls had already cemented a place in Hoosier lore simply for being a local product and former Mr. Basketball who had been a critical component in the program’s drastic rebuild. But as little attention as he might have paid to it, Thursday’s milestone provides him an additional slice of immortality. He was already on Indiana’s all-time top 10 list for 3-pointers and 3-point percentage.
“That kid epitomizes what we’re doing,” Crean said. “He epitomizes Indiana basketball in so many ways. I think people from the past can identify with him and the Hulls family. People in the future, I think, can look at Jordan Hulls and see what can happen when you play in this program and grow up really loving this program. But most importantly, he impacts our present.”
The Hoosiers opened the game with a 16-2 run and never really looked back, going up 32-10 with 7:27 to go and 50-19 just before the half.
The only shortcomings they had all night were at the free throw line. The Hoosiers shot almost four times as many (44) as the Bearkats (12), but made just 30 of them (68.2 percent).
The only reason that was important is that Indiana was running a promotion that would’ve allowed fans to get free food at Qdoba if the Hoosiers had scored 100 points.
“Oh, I had no idea,” Hulls said with a laugh. “Sorry. I apologize. We missed too many free throws.”