WHAT HAPPENED: Albeit against a lower level of competition, Indiana bounced back from Tuesday’s loss to Syracuse with an 89-68 win over North Florida in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Saturday night.
The Hoosiers improved to 7-2 while North Florida fell to 5-6. Indiana opened a game on an 8-2 run and blew it open with a 14-0 spurt late in the first half that gave them a 49-29 advantage and eventually a 52-35 lead at the break. North Florida was never closer than 12 points in the second half and Indiana led by as many as 34 points.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers got 41 of their 89 points from the bench and that group was led by senior guard Evan Gordon, who scored the most points he’s had in an Indiana uniform. Gordon had 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, making his first seven shots. That included a 3-pointer and a pair of jumpers outside the paint, but he was also outstanding at scoring around the rim and in transition. He also had two assists, four rebounds and a steal in the game.
Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 14 points and posted seven assists against just three turnovers. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and orchestrated an offense that got as much ball movement as it has this season to date.
Freshman forward Noah Vonleh had another standard Vonleh performance with 13 points and 11 rebounds as well as two assists, a block and four steals. He was 3-for-5 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell scored 12 points with two assists.
Beyond Gordon, the rest of the bench was also strong. Sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea had eight points, making both of his field goals and all four of his free throws while also posting three rebounds, and a block and steal that both showed off his length and athleticism. Freshman guard Stanford Robinson was just 2-for-7 from the field with six points, but he also had eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore forward Austin Etherington hit a pair of 3-pointers and luke Fischer also had six points.
North Florida’s Dallas Moore scored 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting and also made four of five 3-pointers, but he was the only member of the squad who scored in double figures.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana coach Tom Crean doesn’t usually set goals for assists in a game, but he did for this one because he wanted the Hoosiers the understand the importance of ball movement and making the extra pass. It was clear that in this game, at least the message resonated.
Indiana finished with a season-high 17 assists against just 11 turnovers, which helped the Hoosiers shoot 17-for-34 (50 percent) in the first half and 5-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc before the break. The Hoosiers finished 6-for-18 from beyond the 3-point arc for a more typical 33.3 percent, but the first half proved that the 3-pointer can actually be a weapon on some level if they can get themselves wide open shots. Moving the ball around the perimeter also opened up the paint to some degree, as the Hoosiers scored 42 points inside and made for offensive rebound opportunities. The Hoosiers grabbed 16 offensive boards and turned those into 16 second-chance points.
The Hoosiers also defended well, except when they were defending Dallas Moore. The left-handed point guard beat them from outside and off the dribble, hitting four of five 3-point attempts and scoring at the rim. The rest of the team shot a combined 15-for-53 from the field and 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers caused 17 turnovers and turned those turnovers into 26 points and scored 19 points on fast breaks.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This was obviously sort of a get healthy game. The difference between the level of opponent they played on Tuesday night and this one was massive. The two players North Florida started that were taller than 6-foot-6 also weighed 210 pounds each. There wasn’t much possibility that the Ospreys were going to pull the upset and the fact that the Hoosiers survived doesn’t say much of anything about their future chances. It may say something that the Hoosiers didn’t let their abysmal second-half effort against Syracuse carry over into this game, but really they simply weren’t facing a lot of resistance.
Still, they avoided disaster, and the ball movement was an important step. There aren’t a lot of great shooters on this team and therefore not a lot of guys who can hit contested shots. But if they can move the ball well enough to put each other in good positions, they don’t necessarily have to take the outside shot out of the equation altogether and if they can be just enough of a threat out there to force close outs it can open up the paint, which opponents are starting to pack against them. This was also an example of the Hoosiers learning lessons from games and game-plans and applying them. Crean asked for 17 assists and the Hoosiers provided them. They focused on what they were told to do and they executed it. Obviously, the caliber of opponent makes that a less impressive feat, but it still could be important going forward.