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Indiana 72, North Carolina Central 56: Hoosiers handle Eagles, improve to 5-0.

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The Hoosiers survived a cold-shooting first half and defeated North Carolina Central 72-56 at Assembly Hall Tuesday night.  IU took the lead for good with 5:30 remaining in the first half.  NCCU closed to within 2 early in the second half, but the Hoosiers expanded the lead to 20 with 1:55 remaining, when IU cleared the bench.

Here are the stats.  NCCU isn't a good team, but they aren't lifeless, either, and they nearly defeated Oklahoma last week.  It's encouraging that IU was able to withstand its first poor shooting performance of the season.  The Hoosiers shot only 36 percent in the first half, but led by 10 at the half, thanks to a) winning the turnover battle (really!) 10-5 in that half; b) by grabbing 11 of 24 offensive rebounding opportunities and limiting NCCU to 3 of 14; and c) shooting 7-11 from the line compared to NCCU's 1-2.  Of course, the lead would have been 7 if it hadn't been for Victor Oladipo's beyond-midcourt buzzer beater to end the first half. What a nice and unexpected Thanksgiving present: Gus! Johnson! calling the game in the first place, and Gus Johnson having the opportunity to call a halfcourt buzzer-beater.

 

The second half played out more conventionally, with IU shooting 48 percent from the field.  IU's offensive rebounding percentage was a solid 34.2 for the game, and the Hoosiers limited NCCU to an 18 percent OR percentage.  Most significantly, although IU did turn the ball over 8 times in the second half, IU finished the game with an 18.5 turnover percentage, by far the best of the season.  Still, this was only the 17th time in 67 games under Tom Crean that IU has turned the ball over on fewer than 20 percent of its possessions.

Individuals:

  • Christian Watford again led IU with 17 points.  From the field, his 4-14 total was reminiscent of his freshman year, but he was 9-10 from the line.  He also had 4 assists and 1 turnover.
  • Verdell Jones III struggled, shooting 2-8 from the field for 4 points.
  • Jordan Hulls was ruthlessly efficient, scoring 15 points on only 6 field goal attempts.  He was 3-4 from behind the arc and 2-2 from the line.  
  • Maurice Creek also struggled, scoring 6 points on 3-8 from the field and striking out from behind the arc.
  • As the announcers made clear, Jeremiah Rivers has accepted his new role with a fine attitude.  rivers was 1-1 from the field and 3-4 from the line  and had 6 rebounds in 19 minutes.
  • Derek Elston was excellent off the bench in his return from a minor injury: he scored 9 points on 3-6/3-4 shooting and he had 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. 

IU has not faced a high level of competition yet, but I don't believe for a moment that the 2009 or 2010 Hoosiers would be 5-0 at this point.  Progress hasn't happened overnight, but it is happening.  IU plays Northwestern State the day after Thanksgiving, and next Wednesday, faces its first major challenge when the Hoosiers travel to Boston College for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.