IU's final cupcake of the preseason is now out of the way, and after a rough start, the Hoosiers turned the game into the expected blowout. Here are the stats. The first 12 minutes of the game did not foretell the final score. With 7:59 remaining, a free throw gave South Carolina state a 27-20 lead. The Hoosiers outscored the Bulldogs 82-33, however, in the game's final 28 minutes. At the time that SCSU had its largest lead, IU had shot 7-19 from the field, but the Hoosiers made 28 of their final 44 shots, including 67 percent shooting in the second half. In the end, IU's 1.4 points per possession amounted to IU's most efficient offensive performance of the Crean era. And finally, and you know where this is going, the number that warms by heart more than any other is that in a 72-possession game, IU had only eight turnovers. Of course, it's important to consider the level of competition. SCSU won't be confused with Kentucky. But as I noted in my preview, the Bulldogs' one strength coming into the game was forcing their opponents to cough it up. This was true even of their more respectable opponents. Clemson turned the ball over on 27.2 percent of its possessions against SCSU; IU's next opponent, Northern Iowa, turned it over on 25.7 percent of its possessions against the Bulldogs. Again, I don't want to oversell this, but IU's turnover percentage number against SCSU is by far the best of the Crean era. Hmm. Best points-per possession number, best turnover percentage number. Might there be a connection? We will see if they can keep it up.
Individual performances of note:
- Verdell Jones III returned to the court after missing a game with an ankle injury, and he scored 13 points on 4-5/5-5 shooting in 19 minutes. Also, he had only 1 turnover.
- In the comments, it was pointed out that I may have been too complimentary of Victor Oladipo's last performance because I didn't mention his 5 turnovers. That was true, but he did play well all-around last night: Oladipo had 4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists, and 1 turnover.
- Matt Roth had his first explosive shooting night of the season, scoring 14 points highlighted by 4-5 from behind the arc.
Jordan Hulls continued to play well, scoring 8 points and with 4 assists to 1 turnover. I continue to rant that it has to be a priority to find more shots in this offense for Hulls, who is well over 50 percent for the season from behind the arc.
- Derek Elston started and scored 10 points on 5-6 from the field and added 6 rebounds in only 17 minutes.
Maurice Creek continues to struggle a bit, scoring 8 points, but he was 2-5 from behind the arc and played only 15 minutes.
- Jeremiah Rivers left the game with an injury, but scored 8 points before leaving.
- I almost forgot to mention Christian Watford, which is a testament to how well he has played: 22 points, 6-6 from the line, two turnovers. I worry about Watford being forced to play inside too much during Big Ten play, but if nothing else, his excellence at the free throw line will help in that matter.
Well, there it is. The last "automatic" win of the season is behind us. Unlike in Tom Crean's first two seasons, the Hoosiers made it through the supposed easy wins without an embarrassing loss. Currently, IU is 9-0 against teams rated below 100 by Ken Pomeroy, and 0-2 against teams from the top 100. Granted, both of IU's losses came on the road, and to teams that are above average. Kentucky is Kentucky, and Boston College has had an excellent season other than its early loss to Yale (BC opened ACC play last week with a road win against Maryland). All of IU's 20 remaining games will be against teams that currently are in the Pomeroy top 100. By the time 2011 arrives, IU will have played four top 100 teams, including Big Ten games against Penn State and Ohio State. Today, we know that the Hoosiers are meaningfully better than in the past two season. By January 1, we will have a better idea whether that improvement will lead to a meaningfully better Big Ten record.