LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- This is what Tom Crean meant when he called Yogi Ferrell a winner.
The Indiana All-Stars were locked in an unexpected nail-biter with Kentucky. Indiana clung to a two-point lead with the clock ticking under two minutes Friday night. It needed a stop, and boy did Ferrell deliver.
The point guard's steal, layup and free throw pushed the lead to five. A minute later, his steal on a Kentucky fast break led to teammate Glenn Robinson's dunk and Indiana's 90-85 Freedom Hall survival.
Not even close.
"We expected (a tough game),” Ferrell said. “We can use this as a learning experience.”
And the, because the teams will do it again tonight at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse:
“We have to step it up,” Ferrell said.
Right with him was Mr. Basketball Gary Harris.
“We made it harder on ourselves than it needed to be.”
Ferrell, the highest rated of Indiana University's heralded freshman group (No. 19 in the Class of 2012, No. 2 point guard), did his part, and it went way beyond his final numbers of 10 points, six assists and five rebounds. His two steals that produced five crunch-time points, coach Craig Teagle said, were the direct result of his game-long pressure defense.
“He's a great player,” Teagle said, “but you'd be mistaken if you didn't think of his ball pressure. You eventually wear down the ballhandler. That's what he did.”
When Ferrell wasn't staggering Kentucky, Harris was. He had 20 points, including a couple of late pressure-packed free throws to help Indiana rally from a four-point deficit after blowing leads as large as 16.
“We're not going to give up until the clock hits zero,” he said. “We kept fighting. We didn't want it this close, but we got the win. That's all that matters.”
Indiana came in as the heavy favorite. It had eight players with scholarships to elite college programs (Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Notre Dame). Kentucky had none, unless you consider Virginia and Boston University elite.
Indiana also had won seven straight in the series and 14 of the last 15.
That meant nothing at Freedom Hall, and it wasn't by accident. Kentucky mixed defenses, pressured fiercely, battled relentlessly.
“We had to do everything perfect,” Kentucky coach Jason Booher said. “We had a couple of key turnovers down the stretch, missed some free throws, but we did exactly what we had to do. We did everything as a team and it showed on the floor.”
Teagle had just one week to mold a team out of 13 all-stars, and if the lack of continuity showed, so did the down-the-stretch toughness.
“Do you know how many games these kids have played when you consider high school and AAU ball?” Teagle said. “They probably play 60 to 80 games (in a year). They were poised and confident in their ability to make plays.
“Great players have to make plays, and it all started with Yogi. They're a confident bunch.”
Confident, and a little ticked.
“We can't make silly turnovers like we've been making,” Harris said. “We can't give up the hustle plays.
“We have to throw egos out the window and do everything we can do to win.”
Kentucky was led by its Mr. Basketball, Nathan Dieudonne, who had 24 points and six rebounds. Tamron Manning had 23 points.
“Kentucky played hard,” Teagle said. “They executed well. They played a heck of a game.”
Ferrell made instant offensive impact with assists to Harris and Kellen Dunham for a quick 5-0 lead. Kentucky wasn't rattled and rebounded for a 10-7 lead.
That set the tone. There would be no Indiana intimidation or domination.
Indiana's depth began to wear down Kentucky late in the first half. It pushed ahead 51-37 before a Kentucky surge made it 54-47 at halftime.
Indiana seemed in trouble early in the second half when guard Ron Patterson came up limping after a hard fall. He had his left ankle taped and returned.
By then Kentucky had regained momentum. With eight minutes left, it trailed just 73-72. Forty seconds later, it went ahead 74-73, and then 79-75 before Indiana rallied.
“They're upset,” Teagle said of his players. “They know could have played better, and they will. When they get in college and are under a system for a while, they'll be great players.”
Kentucky overwhelms Indiana girls
The Indiana girls All-Stars were no match for Kentucky. They trailed 39-27 at halftime, gave up a 9-0 run to start the second half and lost 75-47. Indiana will try for a split tonight at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana Miss Basketball Jessica Rupright of Norwell had just two points in 14 minutes. Snider's Akilah Sims shared the team scoring lead with 12 points (on 4-for-6 shooting) in 15 minutes.
Kentucky Miss Basketball Sydney Moss, the daughter of NFL receiver Randy Moss, had 14 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes. She's going to Florida.
Indiana couldn't overcome 25 turnovers and 34.7 percent shooting.