Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Hoosiers revel in growth after Brooklyn win
By Andy Katz
NEW YORK -- Victor Oladipo held up the Legends Classic banner for the crush of Indiana fans to view.
Oladipo made his way around the arena, even standing up on the media table at one point.
The No. 1-ranked Hoosiers had just knocked off unranked but soon-to-be top-25 Georgetown 82-72 in overtime Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
This was just a two-game tournament that didn't even produce a supposedly marquee matchup of Indiana versus UCLA (the Bruins aren't close to being as good as Georgetown is now, or possibly in the future). But it didn't matter to Indiana what the tournament was called, whom the Hoosiers had to go through to win it or when the games were played.
This title meant something to IU.
"It's huge, man," Oladipo said. "This was our first big test, our first tournament as the No. 1 team in the country. Georgetown is a really good team with a lot of really good players. It means a lot for us to win this tournament with two wins on the road."
Georgetown represented, but the majority of fans were clad in crimson and white. This Hoosiers team has a following akin to the Indiana teams of old. There is a sense among fans that they are witnessing something special. And the perception isn't farfetched.
Cody Zeller is a star and the preseason national player of the year. But he was mortal these two days in Brooklyn. He was in foul trouble Monday against Georgia, and while he had his moments against the Hoyas, he struggled to gain position at times and wasn't a dominant presence.
"That's what makes us so dangerous," Zeller said. "Even last year, I don't have to do it all whether they take me away as a shooter or a driver. I don't have to worry about getting my stats. We can get the win no matter whether I score."
Freshman guard Yogi Ferrell finished with more free-throw attempts (11) than Georgetown (10).
Zeller still had 17 points and eight boards, equaling the scoring output of guard Jordan Hulls. The offensive balance and the ability to find openings in Georgetown’s lanky, rangy zone was effective. Christian Watford made big shots and got boards (he had 10 points and 10 rebounds), Yogi Ferrell got to the free-throw line (9-of-11), reserve Remy Abell was a perfect option off a double team (a pair of 3-pointers) and Will Sheehey found his way to the basket, one time with authority on a slam.
"We have a team full of guys," Hulls said. "[Zeller] obviously gets more attention, but we have guys who can come in and contribute."
Indiana coach Tom Crean loved every second of this game. He told me at halftime that this was an epic college basketball game for November. He said afterward that if he couldn't coach it, he would have loved to have played in it. The atmosphere wasn't Assembly Hall, but it was more than adequate for a neutral-site, nonconference tournament setting.
Georgetown had its chance to knock off the Hoosiers but hit several scoring droughts, ignoring stud Otto Porter a few times. After Markel Starks fouled out it became harder for the Hoyas to pull off the upset.
"They've got a nice combination of experience and good younger guys," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Yogi adds a whole new element with his speed. Zeller was the preseason player of the year. They have guys who have been through the ropes. They're poised, very, very poised."
That's a whole new experience for Indiana. The Hoosiers have never been the team to beat on the schedule under Crean. They are now.
"Now we're on the other side of it," Zeller said. "We'll get everyone's best shot, and we kind of expected that when we signed up to play at Indiana. You're going to get the best shot when you're first in the country."
The Hoosiers are hardly done being pushed, with North Carolina in Bloomington next Tuesday for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (yes, even after the Tar Heels lost to Butler in Maui). They will play Butler in Indianapolis on Dec. 15, and of course there’s the Big Ten schedule.
"These were two great games for us and it teaches us that we're capable of winning the tough games," Oladipo said. "These were the first two games that tested us and we came out with the victory. This is big for us. We'll have a lot more tough games down the road. We're the No. 1 team in the country and we did a good job to beat Georgetown and get the win."