Indiana freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell only scored one point and had one assist in Indiana’s win over Penn State on Jan. 7, but it could be argued that no other IU player was a bigger reason that the Hoosiers won 74-51 in that first contest.
Ferrell drew the assignment of Penn State sophomore guard D.J. Newbill, the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer and a 6-foot-4, 205-pound point guard from Southern Mississippi. The Hoosiers were at a significant height disadvantage in the backcourt, but using junior Victor Oladipo to take the Penn State point guard would require Indiana to use either Ferrell or senior guard Jordan Hulls — both 6-foot — on either Ross Travis (6-6, 225) or Brandon Taylor (6-7, 235), Penn State’s forwards. Rather than take on that mismatch, they rolled the dice on the freshman and he came through, holding Newbill to eight points on 3-for-15 shooting and harassing him into five turnovers against three assists.
When the Hoosiers play again today at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall, they’ll be hoping for a similar performance.
“Yogi is a very good defensive player,” IU assistant coach Kenny Johnson said. “His defensive prowess is going to bare out as we go further and further into this season. Especially where we’re trying to go. His ability to pick up where our philosophy is on defense and his ability to dive into the scouting report, and if not take away his opponents strengths, limit them or force them into a high volume of shots to kidn of get their numbers, is very important for us. Yogi is someone who works at it each and every day. He has that great ability to move on to the next play very quickly, whether it be a good play or a bad play. He’s shown a maturity beyond his years as far as his willingness to take on the opponents, on certain nights the best player on the team. … That kind of started it off for us in my opinion in that last game, his willingness to play Newbill in the way he does.”
Said Oladipo: ‘That’s huge. He’s gotta do that not only against Penn State but for the rest of the year. When he plays like that, it helps us. It slows down their guard, their point guard. It makes it tough for them to run their sets. We’re going to need him not only against Newbill but for the rest of the year as well.”
It won’t be easy to hold him down twice, of course. Newbill has only been held to single digit scoring once in Penn State’s four games since its last matchup with IU, and he also scored 27 points and posted six assists against Michigan State last week. Shooting guard Jermaine Marshall has also had a strong stretch and scored 29 points against the Spartans. The Lions have lost six straight, but Indiana isn’t sleeping on them.
“They are a confident bunch,” sophomore center Cody Zeller said. “Sometimes they don’t win. They’ve been on a losing streak recently, but they’re always confident. They play like a five-game winning streak. That’s the kind of guys they have. They’re always gonna play hard. They’re gonna give it everything they’ve got. We can’t take them lightly at all.”
There was some concern after Sunday’s game that the Hoosiers’ might not have Oladipo. He injured his right eye in Sunday’s game.
“I’m good, man,” Oladipo said. “It hurt for a little bit. It hurt yesterday. But it’s pretty good today. I can see. That’s all that really matters.”
Oladipo did have to wear an eye-patch on the plane ride back from Northwestern.
“It was kind of interesting,” Oladipo said. “I was taking pictures. Getting my Pirates of the Carribean on. It was fun.”