BOZICH | Crean, Ferrell direct Indiana to outright Big Ten title - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Crean, Ferrell direct Indiana to outright Big Ten title

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Indiana beat Iowa to win the outright Big Ten title Tuesday. Indiana beat Iowa to win the outright Big Ten title Tuesday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You wonder what they’ll chirp about Tom Crean now.

That he started wearing checked shirts and stopped wearing ties this season. That he sits too little and claps too much. (I know, old news.) That he uses the wrong brand of toothpaste.

That he isn’t Brad Stevens?

Probably this: That his team gave up every millimeter of a 14-point lead in the second half and did not close out an 81-78 win over Iowa until Peter Jok’s three-point shot was short from the right corner on the game’s final play.

That miss made all the chirping silly, irrelevant and wrong. It was Indiana’s 14th win in 17 Big Ten games (and 24th win in 30 overall) and made this news official:

Hand the man a pair of scissors. Indiana earned the outright 2016 Big Ten basketball championship – in a season that was supposed to belong to Michigan State, Maryland or Purdue.

When it was over, Crean wrapped his arms around Yogi Ferrell, his senior point guard, and embraced him in a hug that seemed to last four years.

"The bottom line is when you believe in what you are doing, it's amazing what you get done," Crean told his players in the locker room, after they doused him with water.

Historical note: Crean has won two outright Big Ten titles in eight seasons after taking over a program on probation in 2008. Bob Knight, a Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA champ, won one outright Big Ten title in his final eight seasons at IU. The Hoosiers have a chance to win the league by two full games on Sunday.

Ferrell showed he was the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten this season by drilling a three-point shot with 37 seconds to play that essentially secured the victory. With Iowa guard Mike Gesell chasing him on the right wing, Ferrell faked a drive, stepped back and fired. Ferrell has made 261 three-point shots in his career.

None will be remembered longer than that one.

Ferrell came to Indiana four years ago as part of a recruiting class that somebody nicknamed "The Movement." Of the five players in that group, Ferrell is the only one who stayed four years -- and he'll leave Bloomington as one of IU's top 10 scorers, its top assists guy and a two-time Big Ten champion.

Crean showed he’s done the best coaching job in the Big Ten this season, maneuvering the Hoosiers past Maryland (Mark Turgeon), Michigan State (Tom Izzo), Michigan (John Beilein) and everybody else to win the Hoosiers’ second Big Ten championship in four seasons.

A few people might have predicted that in October and November. Nobody was predicting it in December, especially after the Hoosiers lost to Duke by 20 points after finishing sixth in the Maui Invitational.

“I love them as much now as I loved them in the Duke locker room because I believed in them then,” Crean said after the game.

Crean never flinched.

Even after James Blackmon Jr., the team’s second leading scorer, was lost to a knee injury before the first Big Ten game at Rutgers. Even after Robert Johnson, the guy who took Blackmon’s spot in the lineup, sprained his ankle and missed the final two games, including the one against Iowa.

Crean fixed the Hoosiers’ defense, the one even Dick Vitale criticized. He demanded that this group stop making crazy and unnecessary turnovers.

He shaped four freshmen, including a walk-on, into functioning parts. He made amazing use of one guy Michigan no longer wanted (Max Bielfeldt) and another who was only a part-time starter at Illinois State (Nick Zeisloft). He was was booed in his home arena and deleted his Twitter app because everybody was taking their best shot.

He ignored the people who said he was on his way out and simply coached his team. He took his team on the road nine times and won six games, including trips to Michigan and Iowa.

As it has unfolded for most of this season, Crean had nine functioning parts Tuesday. It seemed as if every one of them could shoot. Indiana made half of its 22 three-point attempts.

Foremost was Ferrell, who led Indiana with 20 points, hitting half of his eight shots from distance. Denzel Valentine of Michigan State and Jarrod Uthoff of Iowa have drawn most of the love as the Big Ten’s best player this season, but Ferrell is the one who is getting a ring.

Troy Williams was nearly as solid, scoring 15 points with seven boards. Williams made only one turnovers in 27 minutes, a king-sized improvement for a guy who seemed to be making 27 turnovers in one minute in December. Crean kept encouraging Williams, the way he has for three seasons.

Zeisloft took most of Johnson’s minutes. He made his first three shots from distance and scored 11 points.

You could call the first half bizarre for the Hoosiers. Iowa was in the double bonus before you could say Ronnie Lester. First Williams and then Collin Hartman went to the bench with three fouls.

Indiana led, 47-41, because the Hoosiers made seven of their first eight three-point shots. In the first 20 minutes four Indiana players – Zeisloft, Ferrell, Bielfeldt and Juwan Morgan – scored from distance.

Indiana played the final 1 ½ minutes with four freshman and Zeisloft. The Hoosiers were again without starting guard Robert Johnson, who missed his second straight game after suffering a high ankle sprain against Purdue 10 days ago.

In the second half, Indiana looked as if they were going to run the Hawkeyes into Sioux Falls. When Ferrell found Troy Williams for a layup with 14:34 to play, the Hoosiers led, 60-46.

The flight to the finish line was turbulent. The Hawkeyes made a sustained run, the way the home team usually does. Iowa actually rallied to lead, 74-72. In Maui, the Hoosiers were not able to win the final four minutes. In Iowa City, they did.

Hartman made two free throws. So did Morgan. Bryant made one. Then Ferrell made his three, Indiana’s final basket, which put the Hoosiers ahead, 80-75. A free throw by Bryant increased the lead to six.

Iowa made one three to halve the lead. The Hawkeyes missed two more in the final seven seconds that could have forced overtime.

Both shots missed. Now Indiana comes home for a Senior Day game against Maryland at 4:30 p.m. Sunday as the outright Big Ten champs.

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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