The scene was set in Bloomington last night. There have been some good atmospheres this season, but nothing approached what was about to be unleashed on the Maryland Terrapins. The student section which has struggled to fill up this year was full before tip and the alumni seemed to be fired up as well. Winning a game at The Assembly Hall isn't easy after all - especially if you are a ranked team. Six straight ranked teams have fallen here and Indiana wouldn't make it easy on Maryland to start.
Collin Hartman who scored 11 points all of last season led off with a free throw and then a trey. Then James Blackmon Jr. hit a trey followed by another Hartman trey. That gave Indiana a 10-3 lead and put Hoosier Nation into a fever pitch within the friendly confines. From there though, the Hoosiers started to struggle a bit offensively due to several unforced turnovers, and Maryland was able to climb back into the game behind 6'9" junior Jake Layman who had 11 points in the first half. The Hoosiers had only four scorers in the first half - Collin Hartman with 10, Troy Williams with 10, Kevin Yogi Ferrell with 9, and James Blackmon Jr. with 9 as they took a 38-35 lead in the half.
The second half opened with Collin Hartman blocking freshman of the year candidate Melo Trimble and that really set the early tone as the Hoosiers would open on a 6-0 run to take a 44-35 lead with 18:20 to play. The game continued back and forth as Hartman continued to make plays - blocking Trimble again and then taking a charge around the 12 minute mark as Indiana held onto the lead 59-50. From this point on, it was all Indiana as the Hoosiers stretched the lead to 77-59 with 5:30 to play. Consider that the battle of the boards was won by Indiana 27 to 24 and that will tell you how many misses there were in this game - not many. The Hoosiers shot 15 of 22 from three and Maryland wasn't too far off shooting 10 of 20. Indiana would use that shooting to go on to win this one 89-70.
What We Learned
Collin Hartman doesn't care that Indiana has no true big man - What Hartman did last night was incredible. As I mentioned above - he scored 11 points all of last season, tore his ACL at the end of the year, and has been limited in practice all season long. He opened the game with 10 points in about two minutes and continued to impact the game throughout finishing with 15 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He played 29 minutes in this one which is remarkable for a guy still limited in practice to this day. He was indispensable on the floor last night and Coach Crean knew it. Hanner Mosquera-Perea is injured and wasn't even with the team on the floor last night as he was apparently in the locker room getting a "different perspective." With Hartman playing as well as he did last night though - I'm not sure it really matters that much. It may be on Hartman for a while to play center at Indiana - and at least for one night - he was completely up for that task.
The Assembly Hall is still one of the greatest places to watch a sporting event in America - For those that have never attended a "big" game in this building - I encourage you to find your way to one. You won't be disappointed. The Hoosiers have knocked off 7 straight ranked teams here and have won 15 of their last 17 games against ranked teams now at home. When this place gets rocking, it is as loud as anywhere in sports. At times in the second half, I am not sure Maryland really knew what hit them. They looked dazed and confused and when I sat in the press room 30 minutes after the game with my ears still ringing - I can completely understand why.
Yogi Ferrell can turn it on when he wants to - Ferrell came into this game struggling shooting the basketball, but last night would be the end of that. He has focused more on distributing the basketball this season and that has been good for Indiana. However, he can also turn on the offense when it matters and he did just that last night making Melo Trimble look silly over and over. When Indiana needs a big shot, there is no doubt it is going to Yogi and there is also almost no doubt he is going to hit that shot. Every team that makes a deep run in the tournament needs a guy like that and Indiana certainly has it. Ferrell would end with 24 points on 8-10 shooting (7-8 from three). He also had 5 assists and 0 turnovers. There are not many guards out there I would take over Ferrell and I don't think that is much of an overstatement at all.
Indiana will now travel to Columbus on Sunday and West Lafayette next week in two crucial road games. If the Hoosiers can go 1-1 in that stretch - this team may be on its way to a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament. And with this type of guard play - they are going to be a very difficult out in March.