WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 14 points in a 16-3 opening run for Indiana, and the No. 1 seed Hoosiers quickly proved to No. 16 seed James Madison that the Dukes were overmatched, rolling to an 83-62 win in front of 12,353 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional.
With the win, the Hoosiers (28-6) have reached 28 wins in a season for the first time since 1992-93 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s third round. They play No. 9 seed Temple, which beat No. 8 seed North Carolina State earlier in the day.
The Hoosiers led 43-22 at half and by a score as great as 68-35 before taking their foot off the pedal in the remaining minutes. James Madison scored as many points (31) in the last 10 minutes as it did in the first 30, but IU still walked away with a 21-point win.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Ferrell scored 14 of his 16 points in the first six minutes, but he didn’t need to do much more scoring. He blew by James Madison defenders for four layups and drilled two 3-pointers over top of them and that was enough to send an already harried James Madison defense scrambling. Ferrell finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists against just one turnover in 27 minutes.
Junior swingman Will Sheehey scored 15 points and had a pair of assists and a steal. Junior guard Victor Oladipo had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal. That steal made Oladipo the all-time single season steals leader with 75, passing Isiah Thomas’s previous record of 74 set in the 1980-81 national championship season.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller was dealing with double- and triple-teams all game, but still had 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Senior guard Jordan Hulls had 10 points and three assists and hit a pair of 3-pointers and was 3-for-6 from the field on the day. Senior forward Christian Watford scored nine points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Remy Abell continued his recent stretch of resurgent shooting, hitting a 3-pointer and scoring seven points in 16 minutes. Freshman forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea got a putback layup for his first field goal since December.
James Madison freshmen Andre Nation and Charles Cooke scored enough late to make the score somewhat respectable. Nation had a game-high 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana had just about every advantage possible to begin with, superior in height, speed, and athleticism. Basically, the Hoosiers simply had to impose will and make sure that any game plan James Madison came up with was proven faulty immediately. That’s pretty much what Ferrell did.
The Dukes backed off on Ferrell, hoping to give themselves a cushion on his dribble drives and more help in the paint. They figured they could sag back off of him, considering that he wouldn’t burn them from beyond the 3-point arc with his .296 3-point shooting percentage on the season. That didn’t work at all, as Ferrell found driving lanes even against sagging defenders and hit the two 3-pointers that effectively blew up the scouting report.
That opened up room for shooters, it opened up a little room for Zeller in the post, and basically put James Madison on its heels and the Hoosiers got running and playing the free, open game that made them so dominant in non-conference play and in certain conference games.They shot 52.7 percent from the field for the game and made nine 3-pointers. They also got to the line 21 times, making 16 free throws while James Madison made just two of four.
The Hoosiers also won the rebounding battle 38-28 and smothered the Dukes defensively for 30 minutes before effectively calling the dogs off. James Madison didn’t hit the 30-point mark until 29 minutes had passed and they shot just 29.0 percent in the first half. They were down 33 before the shots finally started falling.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It means the Hoosiers have avoided the worst possible disaster. Losing to a No. 16 seed as a No. 1 would’ve made this Indiana team dubiously immortal, and the Hoosiers erased any possibility that that might happen quickly.
It was in a way a rubber-stamp victory, but it was convincing, and for once, it wasn’t a game that required a lot of emotional investment. Indiana needed a game like that. Most of the Hoosiers’ recent games have been draining not just physically but emotionally. Though the Hoosiers only have three seniors graduating, it feels like every one’s senior year because of what the veterans went through rebuilding the program and the fact that this group will never be together again. That’s why their were tears during the senior speeches after the Ohio State game and after the Michigan win that clinched the Big Ten title, and why Indiana still seemed spent after the Wisconsin loss. The Hoosiers needed to be able to advance in the tournament with a game that didn’t feel bigger than life, and Friday’s breezy win provided it.
WHO SAID WHAT: Beyond the press conference.
“I felt like they were taking away everyone else … They were kind of just backing off really and worrying about everyone else. So I just picked my spots and drove to the rim.”
“That was great to let a little bit of the nerves out. But when we’re rolling like that, we’re rolling.”
“With Yogi’s penetration, he got a lot of easy baskets and then a lot of opening for our shooters. We kind of played off him to start with and everyone got flowing after that. … It makes us a tough team to guard just because we have so many different guys that can score. Once Yogi got going, then it opened up everything else.”