BOZICH | Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell finally gets his Kentucky moment
Yogi Ferrell was on track to be the first four-year senior at Indiana in nearly five decades not to play against Kentucky. That script has been rewritten.
DES MOINES, Iowa. (WDRB) – Of course, Yogi Ferrell remembers where he was Dec. 10, 2011 – playing a high school basketball game for Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis and puzzled why everybody in the bleachers was cheering wildly during a layup line.
“We were killing some team,” Ferrell said. “At halftime of my game I could just hear people in the crowd cheering and going crazy. I was wondering what was happening.”
Christian Watford. From about 22-feet. After a pass from Verdell Jones. On the left wing. Time expiring. For the win.
Indiana 73, Kentucky 72.
“I was upset that I couldn’t watch,” Ferrell said. “I had to go home and watch it later.”
Because of that play, Yogi Ferrell was on track to become the first four-year Indiana senior in 48 seasons not to play a single minute against Kentucky.
Not for much longer.
Indiana took care of that by defeating Chattanooga, 99-74, in the first NCAA Tournament East Regional game at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday. Credit Ferrell with 20 points and 10 assists, the first 20-10 performance of his 135-game IU career.
Kentucky took care of that by handling Stony Brook, 85-57, in the second game on Thursday, too.
The Hoosiers and Wildcats will assemble against each other Saturday at 5:15 p.m, for the first time in 1,465 days. Ferrell vs. Tyler Ulis. Tom Crean vs. John Calipari. Red vs. Blue. McCracken vs. Rupp. Knight vs. Hall. Indiana vs. Kentucky.
A celebration of what once was one of the most celebrated rivalries in college basketball -- until personalities got in the way.
Winner gets the Sweet Sixteen in Philadelphia and a likely game with North Carolina. The loser? Don’t ask. They won't want to talk about it.
“Obviously, it’s a rivalry because of the history of it,” said Crean, Indiana’s coach. “Because of the proximity of the two states, but because the two basketball teams have been good when it’s been at its best.”
Remember, the last UK-IU game was not The Watford Game. The Wildcats paid the Hoosiers back with stinging authority less than four months later, dispatching IU, 102-90, in the semifinals of the South Regional in Atlanta. Less than two weeks later, UK won the 2012 national title.
Crean and Calipari of Kentucky are legitimate friends. They talk regularly and have traveled together with their sons. They get along – except on one subject:
Continuing the Indiana-Kentucky series.
The Watford Shot, and the raucous court-storm that followed it, convinced Calipari he was not making another trip to Assembly Hall. Crean presented several alternatives to continue the series. They’ve agreed to disagree. No deal. No game.
But Yogi Ferrell made certain that Yogi Ferrell would not miss all the fun of the Indiana-Kentucky series. He played like a guy who has no interest in changing the topic of his basketball future to his projected spot in the 2016 NBA Draft.
“He’s really focused,” said Ferrell’s father, Kevin. “He wants to win. He doesn’t want his college career to end.”
Ferrell showed that immediately against the Mocs. Chattanooga loves to press. It could not press Indiana, not with Ferrell dancing around defenders.
Ferrell also did things that guys who are barely six feet tall are not supposed to do – push, grind and jostle his way around the rim for a rebound.
Ferrell’s reward was not the basketball. It was a stinging elbow to the kisser.
His mouth quickly filled with blood. We were barely five minutes into first half. There was talk around the Indiana bench that Ferrell would require stitches at halftime to repair the wound.
“For this?” Ferrell said, pointing to the inside of his mouth after the game.
The blood was gone but his lower lip was swollen. A slicing cut nearly an inch long had already started to heal. Scratch the stitches. Ferrell healed himself with gauze – and his remarkably poised and persistent play against the Mocs.
He led Indiana (26-7) into the second round of the tournament with 20 points, making four of seven shots from distance. Four free throws attempted. Four free throws made. Ten assists measured against only two turnovers.
“I wasn’t coming out for this,” Ferrell said. “I was bleeding on the inside of my mouth. I was fine.”
“Just a battle scar,” said Troy Williams, one of Ferrell’s teammate. “I’ve seen Yogi play with worse, a lot worse.”
Indiana cannot expect 20 and 10 with only a pair of turnovers from Ferrell every night, but when he plays that efficiently the Hoosiers do remarkable things on offense. Against Chattanooga, Indiana made better than 60 percent of its field goal attempts in each half, finishing 37-57 (64.9 percent), their best shooting performance since late November.
“That was the result of us moving the ball, driving it, sharing it,” Ferrell said. “When we do that and play an inside out game, it just opens the court up.”
The court won’t be that open Saturday, not with Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and the other talented guards that Calipari has to chase him.
But now Yogi Ferrell’s memory of Indiana vs. Kentucky won’t simply be a strange outbreak of cheering in a high school gymnasium.
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