Yogi Ferrell made a trio of three-pointers and scored 15 points as Indiana defeated Penn State.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – The surest sign that Tom Crean has fixed the Indiana University basketball team isn't the game-winning shot Christian Watford made against Kentucky last season – no matter how many times ESPN shows it.
The pair of 2012 NCAA Tournament victories last season or starting this season ranked Number One with Cody Zeller featured on multiple magazine covers? Wrong again.
Here's the correct answer: The incessant chirping and groaning about an IU team that stretched its record to 17-2 (5-1 in the Big Ten) by dusting Penn State, 72-49, in Assembly Hall Wednesday night.
The half-court offense? Folks are demanding more efficiency against a zone.
The bench? Not producing the way it did in December.
The 40-minute intensity? Letting too many teams back into games.
Tony LaRussa and Jack and Jackie Harbaugh were the celebrity guests for the Penn State game? I'm waiting for somebody to howl that Jim and John Harbaugh should have left their Super Bowl preparation to support the Hoosiers, too.
Imagine if the Hoosiers had lost to Miami by 27 or to LaSalle by one, instead of to Wisconsin by five and Butler by two.
For three seasons Crean suffered the heartburn of being out-manned. Last season was the inevitable celebration of winning when the world expects you to keep losing.
The news cycle has shifted again. It always does. Now the Hoosiers have officially returned to the land of Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina.
When you win, you have not won by enough. When you win by plenty, you should have won by more than plenty.
When you lose?
You know the answer. Hide the razor blades and turn off the radio.
Welcome to The Sky Is Falling 101. Several sections in Assembly Hall collapsed last week after Indiana lost to Wisconsin. The howling was even louder than it had been in December when Butler defeated Indiana in overtime.
The truth is that Indiana has settled into the large pot of teams that belongs in the Top 10 and has the skills to make a formidable run in the NCAA Tournament.
Final Four? Might get there. Might not – just like about 30 other teams I could name.
Although the Hoosiers were ranked Number One in November, this was never a team that was going to crackle through an entire season without getting popped a few times. Everybody gets popped in college basketball these days. Check the scoreboard.
Even Crean knows his team needs to get better. He wants to tighten his playing rotation and get the bench generating more heat again.
"The thing I look at our team right now is they are really trying to put themselves in a place where they can hang their hat on the defensive end," Crean said. "And they're getting there.
"The other day we told them there are two teams in the country that are top 10 in field goal percentage defense and field goal percentage offense. And we're one of them. We want to stay in that position."
It's risky to draw conclusions after a victory against a team that has lost all seven of its Big Ten games, but this showed where Indiana has improved – and where it needs to improve.
Yogi Ferrell, the team's freshman point guard, is playing more like a junior. He's shooting with more confidence and driving without fear. He scored 15 –with only one turnover. Victor Oladipo remains Indiana's most efficient player, getting his game-high 19 points off seven field goal attempts.
"It's just getting in the gym," Ferrell said. "Will (Sheehey) and Vic have tremendous work ethic and they keep pulling me in there."
The scouting report on Indiana is that Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford are the team's three-point shooters. They made three of eight against Penn State, but Ferrell, Oladipo and Will Sheehey were the guys who stuck eight of nine threes.
That's how Indiana was able to win by 23 on night when Zeller had two points, failing to score a field goal for the first time in his 55 games at IU.
"He might have had a slow night, but he's doing what it takes to win," Oladipo said. "Cody did a lot of other things to impact the game. He played tremendous defense. He still had 10 deflections."
"It's basketball science," Sheehey said. "When you get a stop it leads to baskets on the other end."
A seven-day, three-game stretch that begins Sunday in Assembly Hall will set the agenda for the push into the second half of the Big Ten season. Michigan State visits Sunday – and the Spartans lead the Big Ten with a 6-1 record.
Wednesday brings a road trip to improving Purdue. On Saturday Feb. 2, ESPN will bring its College GameDay cameras here for the first time during the Crean Era. Why? Michigan, the new Big Ten favorite, will be in Assembly Hall. It's as difficult as any three-game stretch Indiana faces this season.
"We're not trying to beat Penn State," Oladipo said. "We're trying to beat everybody in the country."