The problem — Perea didn't catch it. The ball went through his hands and his chance to deliver an Assembly Hall-rocking jam Friday night vanished almost as fast as Florida Atlantic's upset hopes.
“We reminded him that you actually have to catch it before you dunk it,” coach Tom Crean said with a smile. “I think he had a couple of 'SportsCenter' plays in mind before he tried to catch the ball. He'll be fine.”
IU's 88-52 victory showcased Perea's potential. He had 10 rebounds, four points and two blocks in 14 off-the-bench minutes.
“He did a great job,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “He rebounded and played defense at a high level. All he has to do is continue to be consistent. We have confidence in him.
“When he catches the ball, we expect a highlight-reel dunk. We expect to see a lot of him down the road.”
Oladipo paused from the Assembly Hall media room platform. He nodded to Perea, who was seated next to him.
“Isn't that right, Hanner?”
“Yes, sir,” Perea said.
Perea is a 6-9, 225-pound force of basketball nature courtesy of Colombia. In the three games since ending his nine-game NCAA-mandated suspension for receiving impermissible benefits during his recruitment, he's shown flashes of what the Hoosiers hope one day becomes the norm.
On Dec. 15 he had two points and one rebound in three minutes against Butler. Wednesday he had no points and one rebound in 10 minutes against Mount St. Mary's.
Friday night, Crean said, was another step in his development.
“He's still feeling his way through things. To get to 10 rebounds in that period of time is impressive.
“He's tough. He's physical. He brings a different demeanor to our team. I don't want to call him an X factor because we have a lot of X factors, but his toughness and his competitiveness … the length speaks for itself.
“He's just going to get better and better. Look at the difference from one game to the next. He's going to look much different two to three weeks from now. He'll continue to grow.”
Perea was ranked as the nation's No. 9 power forward as a high school senior, the No. 43 player overall. But a foot injury sidelined him for much of the summer and continued to bother him in the fall. Then came the suspension that kept him sidelined until the Butler game.
“It was tough,” he said about not playing. "Since I couldn't play in those games, I could put everything into practice. Practice hard and do what I can do."
In a frontcourt that features veterans Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, Perea doesn't have to be a scorer.
"I bring energy," he said. "I try to be active all over the floor, play defense, rebound, help the team with whatever it needs."
The progress is obvious.
“The last few games I talked to the coaches and my teammates," Perea said. "They gave me some advice. They pushed me to keep going. That helped a lot. They told me to just play basketball and not worry about making mistakes.
“I feel a lot more comfortable playing.”
Seeing freshmen such as Yogi Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell do well, he said, inspired him.
“That helps me build confidence. I tell myself, I can do the same thing.”
Speaking of Hollowell, he didn't play for the second straight game. He didn't even dress in uniform, although he did watch warm-ups while sitting and standing next to injured teammates Maurice Creek and Austin Etherington.
As for why Hollowell didn't play, Crean said, “Jeremy is dealing with a personal and private matter that is in no way related to academic behavior or disciplinary issues. He has our full support as we look for a quick resolution, and out of respect for he and his family, we will not discuss it further.”
The sixth-ranked Hoosiers (11-1) had no trouble with Florida Atlantic (5-7). They built a 33-point first-half lead and cruised behind forward Cody Zeller's 24 points and six rebounds. Teammate Christian Watford had 17 points. Oladipo had 16 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman forward Peter Jurkin got his first action of the season. He was 0-for-1 from the field in four minutes.
The Hoosiers were 26-for-27 from the free-throw line. Zeller had the only miss but was still 12-for-13.
Florida Atlantic got 25 points from guard Greg Gantt.
“This was tough,” Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis said. “I knew it was going to be almost impossible. I felt a little bit like David going after Goliath.
“I want to get a team good enough where I can come back here and beat their (behinds). That's going to be one of my goals before I die.”
The Hoosiers will get three days off before returning to campus for practice on Christmas night. Their final non-conference game is Friday against Jacksonville at Assembly Hall.
“Our guys were locked in and had a great week,” Crean said. “They've had a long year. Outside of four or five days, they've been No. 1 in the country for a long time. They've handled it extremely well.
“There is no question that I'm glad they're getting a break to recharge, go home and see their families. They deserve a break.”
Up nextTipoff: Jacksonville at Indiana, 8 p.m. Friday
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