DES MOINES, Iowa -- Chattanooga’s length worried Indiana. But in a nice twist for the Hoosiers, it ended up playing right into their hands.
Fifth-seeded IU beat the No. 12 Mocs 99-74 on Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in first-round NCAA tournament action, setting up a potential East Region clash of the titans Saturday with No. 4 Kentucky, which was to face Stony Brook later at this site.
Chattanooga fueled its run through the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament champion, winning a school-record 29 games with long arms and legs that created chaos.
The Mocs feature 6-foot-10 Justin Tuoyo in the heart of their defense and extended pressure past half court with 6-7 Chuck Ester and 6-5 Tre’ McLean. At moments, Chattanooga flashed spectacular skill -- Tuoyo, in particular, with an eye-opening dunk in the first half, followed immediately by a block of Troy Williams on the other end.
Chaos, though, worked just fine for Indiana. Through the steady hand of senior point guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers embraced the furious first-half pace and executed an offensive clinic.
Ferrell welcomed the return of backcourt mate Robert Johnson after a three-week absence because of an ankle injury.
Together, they guided IU through the maze of long limbs -- good practice for Saturday, especially if ultra-athletic Kentucky awaits. The Wildcats and Hoosiers, once regular competitors, last met in the 2012 NCAA tournament and haven’t played a regular-season game since 2011.
The Hoosiers finished a plus-29 points with Ferrell on the floor. He scored 20 points in 36 minutes, and Johnson buried a 3-pointer, his only shot in the first half, while delivering six assists in 22 minutes.
Of course, Indiana’s hot shooting helped its cause, too. But it came only as a product of the IU guards’ ability to dissect the Chattanooga pressure. The Hoosiers shot 64.9 percent (37 of 57) for the game, including 10-of-17 from the 3-point line.
So on a day that featured wins by 12th-seeded Arkansas Little-Rock and Yale, Chattanooga failed to join the party. And a more celebrated event may await Big Ten champion Indiana on Saturday.