CRAWFORD | Indiana mauls Maryland, heads into postseason with mo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Indiana mauls Maryland, heads into postseason with momentum

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Indiana's Yogi Ferrell greets the Assembly Hall crowd on Senior Night. Indiana's Yogi Ferrell greets the Assembly Hall crowd on Senior Night.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I haven’t seen the whole world, or probably even very much of it. But for me, the island of Maui represents the most beautiful place on earth.

And in that paradise, after his team had lost two out of three games in the Maui Invitational in November, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean shared a beautiful truth with his players, though they would’t come to appreciate the beauty in it until much later, until, perhaps, they had beaten Maryland 80-62 to close out an undisputed Big Ten championship season.

Nick Zeisloft, graduate transfer from Illinois State, picks up the story.

“Coach was mad,” Zeisloft said. “He said, ‘Do you guys play at Indiana, or for Indiana?’ And we thought, ‘Kind of both, right?’ But none of us said anything. He said, ‘We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that play at Indiana, not for Indiana.’ That was shocking to us. We were hit hard with that. But now after all those months since Maui, I can honestly say that everyone on our team, every teammate, our coaches, we all play for Indiana, and we will for the rest of the season.”

Now, of course, it wasn’t that easy, going 20-3, after that 5-3 start. There was a lot more involved than some deft speechmaking.

It wasn’t just semantics. It was switches. It wasn’t just talking in the locker room, it was talking on defense.

And it was defense that helped the Hoosiers when they fell behind early on Senior Day against No. 14-ranked Maryland. After the Terrapins made some shots early, they stopped getting good looks. And the Indiana offense did the rest.

The Hoosiers are as dangerous as any team in the nation on offense. When they aren’t turning the ball over, they’re scoring, grabbing offensive rebounds, or beating you in transition.

On Sunday, they made 8 of 21 threes and shot 51 percent for the game, while holding Maryland to 41.4 percent.

The primary difference came at the free-throw line, where IU was 20-25, while Maryland was 6-8. The Terrapins just didn’t force the issue enough on offense, settling for jump shots instead of looking to pound the ball to the post.

Yogi Ferrell, in his final game in Assembly Hall, had 17 points. Troy Williams, a sophomore who more than likely played his final game in Assembly Hall too, added 23 points and 5 rebounds. Six players made at least one three for Indiana.

“Troy plays so fast,” Crean said. “. . . He played like he was shot out of a cannon.”

And all that was without two starters — James Blackmon Jr., who was lost early in the season, and Robert Johnson, who the Hoosiers hope to have back soon.

When Indiana gets it rolling, as it often does in Assembly Hall, it is down-right scary. It can score so quickly and effortlessly it takes your breath away.

The Hoosiers have a tendency not to stay on the gas, in such situations. They lost a big lead before holding off Purdue. They left the door cracked for Maryland — though the Terrapins weren’t together enough as a team to take advantage.

But this is a dangerous tournament team, one that has proven it can win on the road (at Iowa, at Michigan), and one that has improved significantly on defense.

Give Crean credit for pulling the right strings and pushing the right buttons. 

One play typified all of this. Late in the game, Maryland was trying to save time on the clock by rolling the ball up the court to keep the clock from starting. From out of nowhere, Ferrell flew in, and dived on top of the ball, forcing a held-ball.

Indiana, because of Ferrell and Williams, is capable of playing at a speed many teams can’t. When both are playing with the intelligence and passion they showed Sunday, Indiana has a chance to be elite.

“This team responded today they way they have responded all season, and that is with tremendous resilience,” Crean said. “And I think they are still getting better. . . . We feel like there’s a lot left in them.”

If that’s true, the Hoosiers could be on the brink of a special postseason.

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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