BLOOMINGTON – This is the Yogi Ferrell Indiana Hoosier fans hoped to see.
On Friday night he was Trey Burke, scoring at will, finding open teammates, setting a defensive tone, thriving at every turn.
Granted, it came against an over-matched Samford team, but let's hold off on the reality check.
Ferrell had a career-high 26 points, seven more than the sophomore point guard had ever scored before, in Friday night's 105-59 victory. But far more than that, he was a difference maker for a young team that very much needs it.
“I pretty much was taking what the defense was giving me,” Ferrell said.
Amen, coach Tom Crean said.
“Slowly but surely, Yogi is figuring out how good he can be.”
Ferrell had been solid in his first two games, totaling 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He would have surpassed that point total if he had played more than 25 minutes, but there was no need.
On Sunday, against Stony Brook (3-0) in the 2K Sports Classic, IU (3-0) might have a need.
Ferrell had spent a ton of off-season time working on his shooting, plus more time in and after practice, with little reward. He entered Friday night's game averaging 36.0 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from three-point range. That was worse than last year, when he averaged 40.3 percent and 30.3 percent, and everyone agreed he had to get better.
Against Samford, he was. He was 8-for-11 from the field and 5-for-7 from three-point range.
“He had his best game at Indiana thus far, and it won't be his last best game," Crean said.
“You could see it coming in the way he absorbed film, in the way he practiced, in the way he talked in walk-throughs.
“He let the game come to him. Then all of a sudden he's nailing shots, getting to the rim, the whole gamut. He made the game easier and better for everybody else with his point of attack pickup on defense.”
Freshman Noah Vonleh continues to play to the hype. He recorded his third straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The last Hoosier to have three straight double-double games was D.J. White in 2008. Vonleh averages 13.7 points and 11.7 rebounds.
Fellow freshman Troy Williams came close to his own double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. He averages 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Their impressive showing has been overshadowed nationally by the dominance of high-profile freshmen from Kentucky and Kansas and beyond. Crean is very much aware.
“We've got a pretty good group of freshmen," Crean said. "Guys like Noah and Troy are not getting the attention that some of other better freshmen in the country are getting. Everybody is earning it. So are these guys.
“This was Noah's third straight double-double. It won't be his last. Troy continues to get better. He made as much progress as anybody has since Tuesday.
“Noah and Troy were recruited that way for a reason. They were ranked that way for a reason. They'll get better and better.”
Getting better was a big Hoosier theme after last Tuesday's 73-72 LIU Brooklyn cliffhanger.
“It was very important that the players grasped how much better they could play,” Crean said. “That they understood the way we played the other night is a recipe for disaster. We've got to grow up in a hurry.”
For one night, they did – to a point. They are still too careless with the ball, too prone to empty possessions. They had nine assists and 13 turnovers. For the season, it's 30 assists and 46 turnovers.
Youth and a fast pace account for most of that. Against the Samfords of the world, that's not a problem.
Against the powerhouses looming on the schedule, it will be.
“The other night was a wake-up call,” Ferrell said. “We had big things to work on. We did and it showed.”
Samford was beaten before it hit Branch McCracken Court. The Bulldogs lacked the talent, experience or size to stay with the Hoosiers, and it showed from the start.
Coach Bennie Seltzer, the former Hoosier assistant coach, was impressed.
“The athleticism of that team is off the charts,” he said. “That's the most athletic team I've seen in a long time. They can switch in and out of all five positions. That's not normal to have a team that can do that. That makes them really difficult to defend.
“Indiana is going to be a very tough team to beat.”