BLOOMINGTON –- The question was always there. What would happen to top-ranked Indiana's starting lineup when heralded freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell arrived?
Specifically, what would that mean for senior guard Jordan Hulls?
Would the veteran start over the rookie? Would they play at the same time? Would Hulls' role get diminished?
We had our first answers with Friday night's season-opening blowout victory over Bryant. We'll get our second tonight when IU hosts North Dakota State.
Hulls had nine points (on 3-for-5 three-point shooting), five assists and one turnover in 21 minutes. Ferrell had 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two turnovers in 24 minutes.
But those are just numbers. The key, coach Tom Crean said, was defense. Could Hulls and Ferrell defend the perimeter well enough to make playing them at the same time work?
Against Bryant, which offered nothing close to the challenges the Hoosiers will face in Big Ten action, the answer was yes.
“They did a very good job defensively together,” Crean said, “because ultimately that's what the measuring stick will be as we go forward. Sometimes it's clear in a game, and sometimes it's not clear until you get to the film.”
Clarity showed IU held Bryant to 32.2 percent shooting. Starting guards Frankie Dobbs, Dyami Starks and Joe O'Shea combined for four assists and eight turnovers. They shot a combined 7-for-30 from the field.
Hulls and Ferrell were a big reason for that.
“Yogi is ahead of his years defensively, and that's been a joy,” Crean said. “He's getting better at it.
“Jordan is a smart, savvy senior who has continued to become more athletic and stronger.
“When those guys lead the way defensively, we have a chance to have a really good backcourt with them because I think they are going to be good offensively. There will be some nights that will be better than others, but the defense will be crucial.”
Defense will again be emphasized tonight against North Dakota State (1-0), which returns four starters from a 17-14 squad.
The Bison, who play in the Summit League along with IPFW, are led by forward Taylor Braun. He averaged 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds last season. Point guard Lawrence Alexander averaged 12.8 points and 4.6 assists. Forward Marshall Bjorklund averaged 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds.
North Dakota State is projected to finish second in the Summit League behind South Dakota State.
The Bison opened with a 93-47 victory over Valley City State. Guard Mike Felt led with a career-high 23 points and six three-pointers. Braun had 19 points. The Bison had a 42-16 rebounding edge.
“We'll play a really good team,” Crean said. “They are extremely well coached. They're a very good inside-out team. They have excellent post-up players, so our post defense (will have to be good).
“(Bryant) had one good post player. We'll probably see about three (tonight).”
This is the opening round of the 12-team Progressive Legends Classic. IU plays Sam Houston State in Thursday's second round before heading to Brooklyn's Barclays Center next week. It will play Georgia on Nov. 19 and either No. 13 UCLA or Georgetown on Nov. 20.
This is the sixth year for the event. Previous winners were Vanderbilt last year, Syracuse in 2010, Florida in 2009, Pitt in 2008 and Texas in 2007.