Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 25 points in the Hoosiers' final non-conference victory.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Five Takeaways From Indiana's 90-66 Victory Over Kennesaw State Sunday:
1. Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
There are several columns in a basketball box score where 20 is a number to embrace – offensive rebounds, assists, bench points. I'll accept other nominations.
Turnovers are not one of those categories. Turnovers will never be one of those categories.
"We don't understand yet how valuable the ball has to be every possession," IU coach Tom Crean said.
Indiana (10-3) turned the ball over 20 times Sunday, equaling the 20 turnovers IU made Friday night against Nicholls State. That's more than the Hoosiers threw the ball away against Connecticut or Syracuse. Those are season lows. The Hoosiers need a reminder – make that a rousing reminder – that every possession is as valuable as your mother's favorite Christmas ornament.
The math isn't tricky. Even if your team only shoots 40 percent, you've surrendered 16 points with those 20 turnovers. Won't work.
Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
The 20 turnovers were also seven more than IU averaged per game last season -- with a better shooting team. Part of the reason is youth. Part of the reason is carelessness.
Indiana needed less than 45 seconds to lose the ball at the start of each half. Wild lob passes, moving screens, stripped dribblers, shuffled feet. Crean finally appeared to have enough midway through the second half, when the turnover count climbed to 18. He asked for timeout and certainly seemed to suggest that the sloppiness had to end.
It did. IU went 7:29 without a turnover – and then made two in eight seconds. Crean said that in the second half IU had 36 possessions and Kennesaw State only stopped his team twice.
Crean understands what is at stake here. Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and several other Big Ten teams will feed a table of 50 with those mistakes.
Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
2. More Clock For Fischer, Robinson
Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams are the only two freshmen who have started all 13 games for Indiana. But two other first-year players are pressing hard for more clock – center Luke Fischer and guard Stanford Robinson.
Each has skills that translate into winning basketball, even if you don't obsess about points, a problem too many young players have.
Fischer can run, set screens and keep opposing centers from establishing residency in the low post. He can shoot with either hand. Fischer even had a Cody Zeller moment, outrunning the defense to snatch a long pass from Yogi Ferrell. Fischer was rewarded with an easy two points. He scored a career high 10 points in only 19 minutes. Fischer finally looks healthy from his shoulder injury. Crean said he considered starting him in the second half.
"Luke is knocking on the door of being a really productive player for us," Crean said.
Robinson attacks the rim as if he believes that Victor Oladipo could not stop him from getting there. He can change directions and knife his slender body through modest openings. Robinson gave the Hoosiers six points in 11 minutes – and did not turn the ball over.
Let me repeat that: Stanford Robinson did not turn the ball over.
3. Feed The Stud
There's no debating which guy is Indiana's best inside player – freshman center Noah Vonleh. Not only is Vonleh the team's top rebounder, he is also the second-leading scorer at nearly 12 points a game.
That's not an eye-popping number – until you consider this. Over the last eight games, Vonleh has averaged less than five shots per game. Vonleh has not enjoyed double-figure field-goal attempts since the Washington game Nov. 21.
Sunday was your basic Noah Vonleh performance – 14 points and nine rebounds in only 19 minutes. He made five of six shots, enhancing his productivity by making four of six free throws.
If anybody in Indiana's lineup would benefit from more shots, it's Vonleh.
Find him. Feed him. Feature him.
Vonleh needs to call for the ball -- and learn to avoid foul trouble.
"The game's easier and we play better when the ball goes into the paint," said Will Sheehey, Indiana's senior forward. "It starts with them (the post players). They need to demand the ball."
4. It's Yogi's Show
Ferrell, the sophomore point guard, is the only IU player to score in double figures every game, leading Indiana in scoring five times. That included Sunday when Ferrell had 25 points.
Ferrell was the only Indiana player to make a three-point shot, converting three of five. As much as Ferrell has improved from the perimeter, he is also showing a more dependable left hand. Ferrell is one of the most improved players in the Big Ten. Nobody in Crean's lineup is playing with more confidence.
He was efficient shooting the ball, making eight of a dozen shots.
"If it was there, he shot it," Crean said. "If it wasn't, he passed it."
But Ferrell still needs to take another look at the memo that explains why every possession is valuable. He threw the ball away four times, twice on risky, long-range lob passes.
5. Weather The Storm
This was Indiana's final non-conference game. The Hoosiers open Big Ten play at Illinois on New Year's Eve.
Ken Pomeroy doesn't know everything about college basketball, but his computer formula does an intriguing job of predicting the outcomes of future games. This is what Pomeroy predicts for Indiana's first six Big Ten games:
Loss. Loss. Loss. Loss. Win. Loss. That is a 1-5 start that the Hoosiers might have to weather to get to a winning record in the league.
Surprising? Not if you read the fine print.
The Hoosiers' first four games include trips to Illinois and Penn State as well as home games against two of the league's three best teams – Michigan State and Wisconsin. Northwestern arrives in Assembly Hall Jan. 18 for IU's fifth league game before the Hoosiers journey to East Lansing to play the Spartans.
A 2-4 start might require a road win. Splitting the first six games could push the Hoosiers into a safety zone for NCAA Tournament consideration.