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IU opens eyes in exhibition victory

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Online: For more on college athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Solid basketball a Hoosier key

Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 12:30 am

BLOOMINGTON – So now we have visual proof of the following Indiana truths:

*Sophomore Yogi Ferrell is the next Jordan Hulls – well, for one exhibition, anyway.

*Freshman Troy Williams can impact a game without two healthy hands.

*Freshman Noah Vonleh is an instant-impact guy.

*Sophomore Hanner Mosquera Perea might be finally ready to play to his early hype.

*The youthful Hoosiers are very much a work in progress.

Welcome to the aftermath of Saturday night's 83-68 exhibition victory over the University of Southern Indiana.

This was the public debut of a new Cream 'n Crimson basketball era. The standouts who led the Hoosiers to consecutive Sweet Sixteens and a Big Ten championship are gone. In their place are seven newcomers and six freshmen.

The talent is obvious. The inexperience is equally so.

“Our guys played with tremendous energy,” coach Tom Crean said. “We got better as the game went on. Our guys understood that if you stick with it, stick with your energy, keep pushing the ball, keep attacking, good things will happen.

“We had times in the second half where we didn't play as efficiently on defense. We had moments when we didn't challenge shots as well.

“It was a great eye opener for us. Everybody plays to win. You've got to hit. You've got to have aggressiveness. You've got to get the 50-50 balls.”

IU did that well enough against a perennial NCAA Division II national power. The catalyst was Ferrell, who in an ideal Hoosier world becomes the kind of offensive force Trey Burke was for Michigan last year.

He had 20 points, which would have been a career high if this was a regular season game. His 6-for-10 three-point shooting was last seen in a Hoosier uniform by Hulls, who went 6-for-9 beyond the arc in a 20-point effort against Jacksonville.

“The whole key is you take what the game is giving you, and Yogi is good enough where that's got to be the key,” Crean said. “The shooting was excellent, the way that he got them.”

Williams had spent the last several weeks sidelined by a right hand injury. He had resumed practice last week, although his hand still had a white wrap on in. His shooting wasn't great (4-for-12), but he finished with 10 points, including a three-pointer, along with 10 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes.

"With a guy like Troy,” Crean said, “I mentioned at one point, `Do you know who Babe Ruth is?' and he didn't. I said, "Well Babe Ruth was an unbelievable home run hitter and a strikeout king, and right now we don't want to be Babe Ruth. We don't want to hit home runs and we don't want to strike out. We want to just play solid basketball.'”

The 6-10, 240-pound Vonleh looks more like a tight end. He powered his way to nine points and 12 rebounds, numbers that would have been better if not for his 0-for-5 free throw shooting. He did, however, go 1-for-1 on three-pointers.

Perea, who struggled as a heralded freshman, was solid with nine points, five rebounds and one steal in 15 off-the-bench minutes.

Over the past two years IU was among the nation's best in shooting and overall offensive efficiency. On Saturday night this team shot 41.8 percent from the field and 58.1 percent on free throws. It also had 13 assists against 17 turnovers.

Add the fact USI shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and there is plenty for the Hoosiers to work on before their next exhibition Nov. 4 to Hillsdale College.

“We need to be a better defensive team as far as mindset, especially in the post,” Ferrell said. “We have to dig more. Offensively, we have to knock down more shots when we're tired. It goes back to getting more shots up after practice.”

It goes back, USI coach Rodney Watson said, to maximizing potential. IU has plenty of that.

“I love (the Hoosiers') length and toughness. They're young guys, and a lot of times young guys don't understand the toughness you have to have to play at the highest level in the country, but they were going to the rim with authority.

“You can make the point that it was against a Division II and an undersized team, but they were going to the rim and playing fearless. I think they will have to make perimeter jump shots, like we will, to play games well.”

For now, that will have to be proof enough.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.