Indiana spent this week learning the tough lessons at practice.
On Wednesday night, the sixth-ranked Hoosiers finally got a chance to have some fun, at the expense of Mount St. Mary’s.
Four days after losing for the first time this season, Cody Zeller scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, Christian Watford added 15 points and eight rebounds and the Hoosiers shot and rebounded like a team intent on making amends as they ran away from the Mountaineers, 93-54.
”When we talk about practice, we try to keep it within ourselves,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. ”But I think the way we played tonight showed how hard we practiced the last few days.”’
Other players let the secret out.
After spending the first part of Christmas break enduring rigorous two-a-days, they delivered the kind of dominant performance that will help Indiana (10-1) forget about Saturday’s stunning overtime defeat to Butler.
The Hoosiers outrebounded Mount St. Mary’s 41-18. They forced as many turnovers (17) as they allowed baskets. They limited the Mountaineers (4-5) to a season-low 31.5 percent from the field, and Indiana shot 70.6 percent from the field, the fourth-highest mark in school history. The Hoosiers went 9 of 12 from 3-point range.
Indiana had five players in double figures, 27 assists on 36 baskets and never let Mount St. Mary’s get closer than 31 points over the final 14 1/2 minutes.
And Wednesday’s game became the respite for Indiana’s players.
”Every day was just a battle, whether we came in the first time or the second, we battled hard every time,” said senior forward Derek Elston, who returned to the lineup after missing the first 10 games because of knee surgery. ”That was something we had to do, we had to get that grip back and tonight we did.”
They did it emphatically and with everyone playing a role.
Sheehey scored 16 points off the bench. Victor Oladipo had 14 points, five assists and five rebounds. Remy Abell finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. Yogi Ferrell had eight points, nine assists and four rebounds, and Jordan Hulls added eight points and five assists.
With numbers like that, even Indiana coach Tom Crean found little to critique.
”Whenever you lose, I think It creates a different level of urgency with your team and it did,” Crean said. ”We dealt with a multitude of things this week, whether it be an injury, whether it be an illness or whatever. I thought our guys did an excellent job. I thought we moved the ball extremely well. I thought we kept the pace.”
If the Hoosiers play like this, they’ll be even tougher to beat, as Mount St. Mary’s discovered.
The Mountaineers were led by Rashad Whack with 17 points and Josh Castellanos and Sam Prescott, who each had 10 points. Yes, they managed to hang close for about 15 minutes but they eventually succumbed to the Hoosiers’ size, speed and depth and never caught up.
Mount St. Mary’s is 0-13 all-time against the Big Ten and 1-20 all-time against the Top 25.
”You miss shots against a good team, they’re going to rebound it, they’re going to outlet it and they’re going to push and they’re one of the faster teams, so that’s what happened today,” coach Jamion Christian said. ”I’m just happy they didn’t score 100.”
That’s about the only thing Indiana didn’t accomplish in winning its 28th straight home game against a non-conference team.
The Hoosiers used an 8-0 run to take a 26-17 lead midway through the first half, and when the Mountaineers got within 30-26, Indiana finally had enough.
Oladipo’s steal led to a layup by Ferrell, Zeller posted up for a short jumper and Oladipo knocked down a 3 to extend the lead to 37-26. Indiana closed the half with two free throws and a layup from Sheehey and Watford’s 3 on a fast break to make it 46-29.
Then the Hoosiers opened the second half with a dunk from Zeller that sent Indiana on an 18-2 run to make it 64-31.
The resounding victory came on a bittersweet day, though.
Crean announced that injury-prone guard Maurice Creek would be out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury to his right foot. The team said Creek was injured during Sunday’s practice.
”What happened in the past is in the past,” Abell said. ”We needed to look ahead, so we wanted to make the extra pass and not just stay on one side of the floor. As we did that, we got easy baskets.”