Austin Etherington's knee injury ended his game before it barely began, and perhaps a lot more.
Saturday night's 100-69 victory over Central Connecticut State couldn't change that.
“It was a very tough moment,” forward Christian Watford said. “He's a guy who has done a lot with the program. He's a teammate, but also a friend. It's always tough to see a comrade go own.”
Etherington, a sophomore reserve guard, went down late in the first half on a collision under the Central Connecticut State basket. He appeared to bump knees with the Blue Devils' Terrell Allen, fell to the floor and instantly shouted in pain. IU's medical staff quickly got to him, and just as quickly called for a stretcher. His teammates lifted him onto the stretcher. Etherington was in obvious pain, but pointed to the crowd as he was transported off the court for further evaluation.
Coach Tom Crean said Etherington was taken to the hospital just after halftime.
“It will take a little time for a determination,” Crean said. “We're in the process of that. He was in a lot of pain. It takes a little while for that to settle down.
“It's a significant injury. He left shortly after halftime. We moved on it right away. Get that process moving as quick as possible.”
In two minutes Etherington had one rebound and two fouls.
“Austin had a couple of fouls, and I was getting him out when he got hurt,” Crean said. “That was the tough part. This would have been a good gamed for him.”
The injury came during IU's 38-20 half-ending run.
“When Austin got hurt, and there's no question when you have a close-knit team like this, it affected everybody,” Crean said. “They were really bothered by it. Their thoughts were for their friend. This is a close team. That's one of the reasons why we're having the success we've had.”
Added forward Cody Zeller: “It's tough. There's no preparing for anything like that. You have to get back out there.”
The 7-foot Zeller bounced back to exploit a much smaller Central Connecticut State team — no player than 6-8 — for a career-high 19 rebounds (his previous best was 13) along with 19 points.
“Cody was 19 and 19, goodness gracious,” Crean said. “He was fantastic. It's not like he was given any advantages around the basket by any stretch of the imagination. He earned everything he got.”
Zeller credited IU's week off, which allowed him to work on his rebounding.
"Having a week off, I was fresh," he said.
Watford scored 21 points. Victor Oladipo had a monster game with 15 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three blocks. He also spearheaded a defense that held the Blue Devils' Kyle Vinales, the nation's leading scorer, to 7 points on 3-for-15 shooting. Vinales entered the game averaging 25.9 points.
“I pretty much guard the best guy on the other team every play,” Oladipo said. “I've been doing that for a while. It's a challenge every game.
“We did a pretty good job of not letting him get comfortable, not letting him get to his sweet spots, and make him use his off hand.”
Added Crean: “That kid (Vinales) was the leading scorer in the country. He's only been out like 27 seconds all season. He's averaging over 40 minutes a game. That's a big test.”
However, the Blue Devils (4-4) got 40 points and seven rebounds from guard Matt Hunter. That tied the most points scored by an opponent in Assembly Hall held by Michigan State's Shawn Respert and Terry Furlow.
Hunter was 6-for-11 from three-point range.
“We gave up too many to another guy,” Crean said. “He was shooting 11 percent from 3. He had a good game, but you don't want to take away the nation's top scorer and then have somebody else become that guy. So there's room for us to shore things up over the week.”
IU (9-0) gets a week off for finals before playing Butler next Saturday as part of the Crossroads Classic. Notre Dame will play Purdue in the other game at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Butler game should mark the first appearance of the season for freshman Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin. They were suspended for the first nine games for receiving impermissible recruiting benefits.
Central Connecticut State had been competitive in its first three losses, but had no chance against a Hoosier team that is 7-0 at Assembly Hall.
IU's full-throttle pace took about seven minutes to wear down Central Connecticut State. Then came a 21-2 run that left the Blue Devils reeling. By halftime, the Hoosiers led 53-34.
Oladipo led another Indiana surge to start the second half with a steal and a dunk. After 90 seconds, Blue Devils coach Howie Dickenman had seen enough and called a timeout, but it wasn't nearly enough.