BOZICH | Indiana, Ferrell stroll through record book while beati - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana, Ferrell stroll through record book while beating Illinois

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Yogi Ferrell set Indiana's all-time assists record as the Hoosiers rolled Illinois. Yogi Ferrell set Indiana's all-time assists record as the Hoosiers rolled Illinois.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – This was supposed to be another one of those Indiana basketball games you had to watch with one eye on the media guide.

When was the last time the Hoosiers won 11 consecutive games? (December 2011, Cody Zeller’s freshman season.)

When was the last time Indiana started 6-0 in the Big Ten? (January 2008, Kelvin Sampson’s final season.)

Who was the player that Yogi Ferrell overtook to become IU’s all-time assists leader? (Michael Lewis, point guard on Bob Knight’s final team.)

When was the last time Indiana made 19 three-point shots in one game? (Never -- not even during the Damon Bailey or A.J. Guyton years.)

That’s exactly what happened in Assembly Hall Tuesday night.

Make it Indiana 103, Illinois 69.

Keep the record book open. Better grab an Illinois media guide, too. That was the most points the Illini have allowed since one of Bob Knight's Calbert Cheaney teams beat Illinois, 109-74, in January 1991.

“The chemistry on this team is great,” Ferrell said. “I’d probably rank it with my freshman year.”

At 6-0 in the league and 16-3 overall, the Hoosiers will be alone atop the Big Ten until Thursday night when Iowa (5-0) wins at Rutgers.

You want more proof of how strange this college basketball season has become? One night after Duke lost for the third consecutive game, Indiana won for the 11th consecutive time.

The Hoosiers have not stumbled since they were thumped by 20 points by the Blue Devils 48 days ago. America wrote off Indiana after that game. So did many Indiana fans.

It's time to take another look. This team has benefited from a favorable Big Ten schedule. The combined league records of the six teams IU has beaten is merely 10-26. But this team is absolutely playing defense with a commitment and plan that were missing in November and early December.

Turnovers were an issue in Maui and at Duke. They were not Tuesday night. IU made 11. Defense was an issue in Maui and at Duke. It has not been in a half-dozen Big Ten games. In conference games, IU ranks second in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency rankings. Illinois averaged only .958 points per possession.

“We don’t spend a majority of our time in the negative and we don’t spend a majority of our time in the positive,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We spend our time getting better.”

Give Ferrell 16 points and 9 assists, moving him into 13th place in that category on the all-time Big Ten list.

“He’s always full throttle, even in practice,” Crean said. “He always has been.”

He passed Lewis Tuesday and Hall of Famer Quinn Buckner last Saturday. If Ferrell can stay healthy and continue his season average of around six per game, he should climb into at least fifth place on the Big Ten all-time list.

Ferrell didn’t wait long to take the IU record. His first assist came less than six minutes into the game when he found center Thomas Bryant for a three-point shot. He overtook Lewis about three minutes later with a laser pass from the right wing to Max Bielfeldt for a layup.

“At the end of the day people aren’t going to remember the assist record,” Ferrell said. “They’re going to remember if you won games.”

“It’s a heckuva record,” Bielfeldt said. “It shows you how talented he is.”

Make a note that in the first half the Hoosiers had more three-point field goals (nine) than Illinois had total field goals (eight).

And they kept launching. Nine different guys scored from distance including walk-on Harrison Niego, whose three-pointer with 51 seconds to play secured the record. Bryant, Ferrell, Troy Williams, Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, OG Anunoby and Niego combined to make 19 of 36 threes.

The Hoosiers expect big numbers from Ferrell, Williams (21 points, no turnovers) and Bryant (9 points, 4 rebounds). They have needed to develop another option since James Blackmon Jr. injured his right knee before Big Ten play began.

Robert Johnson should be that guy. He showed that ability and confidence last season. The first five Big Ten games have been difficult for Johnson. He scored only 19 points and made only 6 of 27 field goal attempts.

Against the Illini, Johnson played like the Johnson who started 33 games as a freshman. He took three-point shots as if he believed that he could make three-point shots, delivering three baskets from distance in the first half. Johnson finished with 13 points.

Even Blackmon Jr. seemed to be energized by the proceedings, pitching the crutch that he was using prior to the game to protect his surgically repaired right knee.

The Hoosiers return to Assembly Hall Saturday when Northwestern visits for a noon game. The Wildcats have lost four of their first seven conference games.

“We’ve got a bulls-eye on our backs,” Ferrell said. “We definitely can’t let up now.”

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