Well, that was fun.
Cody Zeller had 19 points and a career-best 19 rebounds as No. 1 Indiana manhandled Central Connecticut State, 100-69, Saturday night inside Assembly Hall, reaching the century mark for the second time in the last four games.
"I was really proud of these players for a lot of reasons," Indiana coach Tom Crean said after the game, according to IUHoosiers.com. "Number one, they had a great week of preparation. They were absolutely locked in, and our play showed it. They just played at a very high level. We got up, [and] we continued to play hard."
This game had everything we've come to expect from this group: pristine shooting, suffocating defense, unselfish passing and Victor Oladipo wreaking havoc all over the place.
While Zeller's 19 and 19 will consume most of the headlines about, this one, at least in my view, was all about Oladipo.
Oladipo filled up the stat sheet, totaling 15 points (on 7-for-9 shooting), nine rebounds, five steals, three blocks and two assists in just 22 minutes. He set career-highs with the five steals and three blocks. Defensively, he helped limit Central Connecticut State's Kyle Vinales, who came into the contest as the nation's leading scorer at 25.9 points per game, to seven points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Oh yeah, there was this little show of athleticism, too.
(via Matt Gomberg)
Oladipo was such a spark for the Hoosiers, he gained a new fan in Central Connecticut State coach Howie Dickenman.
"He got me into the game, too," Dickenman said. "Where did you get this guy from? Fantastic athlete."
Christian Watford battled through first-half foul trouble and hit 8 of 12 from the floor on his way to a season-high 21 points in 20 minutes. It was just the third time this season an Indiana player scored 20-plus points (Zeller has the other two), a pretty unbelievable stat for the nation's highest-scoring offense.
Will Sheehey dropped in 12 points and snagged six rebounds. Yogi Ferrell had eight points and six assists while committing just one turnover. Jordan Hulls buried 2 of 4 from beyond the arc to become the third Hoosier to nail 200 career 3-pointers, joining Tom Coverdale (200) and A.J. Guyton (283). Hulls finished with 10 points and four assists, also turning it over just once.
Central Connecticut State (4-4) scored the game's first bucket, and that's where the whole "Indiana not being in the lead" thing pretty much stopped.
The Hoosiers (9-0) pieced together a 22-2 run to take a commanding 37-18 advantage with 7:50 left in the first half. At that point, Indiana was shooting 70 percent and had eight assists on 14 buckets.
Indiana -- who takes on Butler at 2 p.m. next Saturday in the annual Crossroads Classic -- shot 22 for 35 (62 percent) in the first half and took a 53-34 lead into the break. Indiana rebounded eight of its 13 misses, and 12 of the Hoosiers' first 22 field goals were layups or dunks.
For those of you who like neat little stats and also enjoy poking fun at Purdue, there's this: Indiana scored 44 points in 14:07 while the Boilers scored 44 points in the entire game in their loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Wait, is that the same Eastern Michigan team who lost to Jacksonville State earlier this year? Why, yes, yes it is.
Indiana really "cooled off" in the second half, hitting 17 of its 37 shots (46 percent). The Hoosiers finished the game 39 for 72 (54 percent) from the field, and Indiana recorded 20 assists, its fourth game this season with at least 20 assists. The Hoosiers held a 53-31 edge on the glass.
Defensively, Indiana held the Blue Devils to 33 percent shooting. The Hoosiers kept Vinales under wraps, but Matt Hunter blew up for Central Connecticut State. Hunter drilled 6 of 11 from the 3-point line (he was shooting 11 percent from 3 prior to this game) and finished with 40 points. It tied the record for most points scored at Indiana by an opposing player. Shawn Respert (1995) and Terry Furlow (1976) also had 40-point outings at Indiana.
The win gives the Hoosiers their second straight 9-0 start and 27th straight non-conference home victory.
Unfortunately, it came with a price tag.
Austin Etherington, a sophomore, went down late in the first half with what appeared to be a serious injury to his left leg and had to be taken from the floor on a stretcher. The rest of the team came out on the court to show their support before Etherington was wheeled away, and some of the players were visibly shaken. It was a reminder -- albeit an unpleasant one -- of how close this group is.
Crean didn't have an update on Etherington's condition when he spoke with reporters after the game. He did, however, have this to say:
"There is no question when you have a close knit team like this, going through the recruiting process and the day-to-day interactions that they have together, it affected everybody, and I'm proud of the way they bounced back because they were really bothered; it wasn't as much about the win. I know their thoughts, and they were really concerned for their friend. That's what he is. He's their teammate, and they're all close friends, and that's one of the reasons that we're having the success that we have."
I've said it before, but I'll say it again -- what I enjoy most about this group isn't how good they are, it's how much they enjoy playing together. They seem to genuinely care about one another. They are a true team, something that's not too common in sports today.
From an on-court basketball standpoint, losing Etherington isn't too big of a deal. But he always seemed like an exemplary teammate and someone who embraced his role. Any time an Indiana player makes a big play and the camera shows a shot of the bench, Etherington is always -- literally every single time -- celebrating with sincere enthusiasm. I loved this picture from the VCU game last season. Here's to hoping he can get back to 100 percent.
While Indiana may be losing one player for a significant amount of time, it's getting ready to add two more guys to the fold. The nine-game suspensions of Hanner-Mosquera Perea and Peter Jurkin are officially over, and the two freshmen are expected to play in the Hoosiers' Dec. 15 game against Butler.
"It's too early to tell," Crean said when asked what he expects from Perea and Jurkin in the Butler game. "We'll just try to build them into the flow."
Indiana's non-conference schedule hasn't been too tough, but the Bulldogs figure to provide a stiff challenge. If anything, it should be a more grind-it-out affair and help prepare the Hoosiers for Big Ten play.