Ferrell hitting his stride when IU needs it most

  • 02/13/2015 2:32 pm in

As Jake Layman knocked in a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds remaining to give Maryland a 67-63 lead over Indiana at the XFinity Center on Wednesday night, there was an uneasiness present in the building.

A four-point lead and less than 20 seconds to play for a team that entered the game with a 14-1 record at home would typically produce some level of comfort, but on this night, it wasn’t there.

There was no comfort for one reason: No. 11 in crimson, Yogi Ferrell.

After the Terrapins were torched by Ferrell in Bloomington for 24 points on Jan. 22 in a 89-70 blowout win for the Hoosiers, Maryland knew what it was up against and still, Indiana’s point guard was producing another onslaught. Step back 3s, finishes at the rim, assists for teammates, Ferrell was doing it all.

On the possession following Layman’s free throws, Ferrell took a pass from Collin Hartman, used four dribbles and went past two guys at full speed for a 3-point attempt.

Bottom of the net. This one wasn’t over.

Down one with one 14.3 seconds to play, Indiana was forced to give a foul and the Terps split a pair of free throws, setting up a final sequence and a chance for more heroics from Ferrell.

With Maryland against on its heels defensively, Ferrell had arguably his cleanest look of the night from the top of the key that was just long. Ferrell would grab a loose ball on the rebound, move into lane and again narrowly miss a runner going away from the basket to his right that would have sent the game to overtime.

“I was hoping he’d miss it,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon would say afterward. “I’m like every other fan in the building. ‘Miss, miss, I hope it goes off to the side.'”

That quote from Turgeon sums up the feelings of many of IU’s recent opponents when it comes to stopping Ferrell: At this point, you have to hope he misses. The tear he’s been on since the first Maryland game, and it’s fair to call it that, has been remarkable.

In IU’s last seven games, which the shot chart below depicts, Ferrell is averaging 19.6 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 37.6 minutes per game. His assist-to-turnover rate over than span is better than 3-to-1. His effective field goal percentage is 64. He’s proving that he’s one of the best guards in the country even if the Wooden Top 20 list or Naismith Award Top 30 list tell you otherwise.

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“Yogi is such a good player,” Michigan coach John Beilein said after the Wolverines lost to IU at Assembly Hall. “I’ve been in this league eight years now and there’s few point guards that I could say are playing as well as he is.”

But Ferrell’s growth hasn’t been limited to on the court.

In a season where Indiana’s leadership off the court has been questioned given what transpired from last February, when Hanner Mosquera-Perea was arrested up until late October, when Emmitt Holt and Devin Davis were involved in a near tragic accident, Ferrell appears to be emerging as a leader.

Like Mosquera-Perea, Holt and Davis, he was a part of the off the court turmoil in the offseason when he and Stanford Robinson got into trouble for underage drinking and possession of fake IDs on Little 500 weekend. In early November, it was Ferrell that met television cameras to deliver the message that he and his teammates were embarrassed by their actions with a vow to be more accountable as a leader moving forward.

“We are embarrassed by our actions, even I have made mistakes,” he told reporters. “I have owned up to those mistakes. Me, being a leader of the team, I have to hold guys more accountable to their actions and what those actions can do to this program.”

Those words, at the time, were justifiably met with skepticism. But now, three and a half months later, seem like a distant memory. IU’s off the court record since that time is clean, although Tom Crean has been quick to acknowledge this season that he and the team are constantly working to keep things that way.

Back on the court, the Hoosiers are 17-8 and 7-5 in the Big Ten with a real shot at a return to the NCAA tournament.

Ferrell has successfully undertaken another role change as a junior. He’s playing off the ball as a catch and shoot threat, something we rarely saw him do as a sophomore. He remains just as dangerous a threat to pull up from the perimeter off the dribble or blow past a defender and finish at the rim. And he’s facilitating more given the assortment of shooters that now surround him on the roster. He’s the best defender on a team with significant limitations on that end of the floor.

There’s also a certain nastiness to his on court appearance recently that suggests his attitude and competitiveness have grown to higher level.

Most importantly, he seems to be hitting his stride just when Indiana needs it most. The Hoosiers have six regular season games left and probably need to win at least three to punch a ticket back to March Madness. Every game this time of the year holds importance and that’s exactly why Ferrell fell to the floor with disappointment when his final attempts to lift IU past Maryland came up short on Wednesday.

“That shots going to be in the back of my mind for a while now,” Ferrell said. “It looked good, felt good, but it just didn’t go in.”

Crean didn’t let Ferrell stay on the XFinity Center floor long on Wednesday night. Rather than heading straight for the handshake lineup, he raced over to pick him up. His message was simple to Ferrell: You played outstanding and we’d draw up that final play again.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anyone,” Crean said postgame. “That’s about the best statement I could give because that’s the truth.”

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  • E Foy McNaughton

    He plays sooooooooooo hard. Yogi will go down as one of my all time favorites to watch. The tears at the end of the Maryland game. You could tell it kills him to lose that game.

    Imagine for a moment, we add Thon Maker, keep our core players… this could team could make a deep, deep run and go down as one of the best ever.

  • Bruce Clark

    Good article by Jon Rothstein at CBS Sports about Yogi recently.

  • Gregory Spera

    As I have said before, if Crean can just put a good enough team around Yogi next season, the little guy has a real chance to produce a Mateen Cleaves/Shabazz Napier kind of senior season for the Hoosiers. Yogi just keeps getting better. We need to capitalize on having this special player on our team, while we still can.

  • N71

    Next year for sure but why not this year? If you look at the 2014 Final 4 there was Florida (#1 seed), UConn (#7), Kentucky (#8), and Wisconsin (#2). UConn’s guard play was a problem for everyone just is ours. I realize we have size issues but Hanner is back and there’s potential with the new football guy. If James, Rob, and Yogi are all hitting we can beat most anyone. And as for the unbeatable (Kentucky, Wisconsin) they could fall to a Baylor for example in the round of 8. We don’t necessarily have to slay the dragon, someone else could do that for us.

  • Indiana_Banners

    I would look to last night as your “why not this year?”

    James and Robert are fantastic and have played with a lot of poise for true freshmen but they simply aren’t as consistent as Yogi or even Troy. If we return everyone I would expect Johnson and James to be much more consistent and Yogi, Troy, Hanner… those guys haven’t hit their ceiling…

    It’s the NCAAs so you don’t have to string together that many good games to make an impact… it could happen this year… but next year is a safer bet based on the inconsistency we’ve seen out of our frosh so far.

  • inLinE6

    I like that. A No.7 seed sounds about right to cut the net in April. 🙂

  • Fred C. Dobbs

    I’ve said it before on this site, we’ll finish the regular season at 13-7! With Yogi, and the rest of this team playing with a chip on their shoulder, we can’t lose. This is just the kind of inspiration we needed down the stretch! Go Hoosiers….

  • inLinE6

    Let’s check his draft status after the season. He has decent shot being 1st rounder despite the size limit.

  • IUBizmark

    Yogi’s play this season is, no doubt, making it easier for Crean to recruit. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t (yet) landed a mobile big man for next season, because it could be something incredible if we had that rebounding/rim protector piece to go with the rest of this incredible team.

  • Ms hoosier

    I’m really proud of how this team has improved thruout the year.Yea they still make mistakes that young players make but they have shown a desire to want to get better and you can see this team really wants to win.I see confidence on their faces when they step on the court.I believe we got a shot to make a run here at tourney time. GO HOOSIERS SHOCK THE BASKETBALL WORLD!!!!!!!

  • Ms hoosier

    No doubt about it Yogi is the hardest guard in the country to guard.I don’t think anybody can guard him 1on 1.

  • iugradmark

    Yogi has played one of the best stretches of basketball that I can remember. Not just shooting but decision making, when to stay on the dribble, defense, etc. You just wonder how long he can keep this up. He is also logging serious minutes.

  • I know it’s bad form to worry about whether or not he stays next year. There’s still this year to play out, and plenty of reason to be excited about this team’s prospects if they play like they did the other night _and_ hit their typical percentage. But, golly, I just can’t help it.

    Forget B1G and national championships for a minute and focus on Yogi. He could really cement a place for himself in IU lore (even more than he already has) if he comes back as a senior. He’ll be all over the record books, and with even more improvement and an even better (at least, more seasoned) supporting cast, he’ll be a serious national POY candidate and certain high-first round draft pick. Yes, he could go make some money after this year, but imagine what he could accomplish if he stays.

    Yeesh. I’m starting to get as nervous about that decision as I am about how far IU goes in the big dance.

  • Ms hoosier

    Its amazing how he withstands the long minutes considering how he plays on both ends of the floor.He always has to defend the other teams best player.Poud he’s a Hoosier!!!

  • beer30

    I have a feeling that we get lucky & everyone stays after this year.

  • PBzeer

    Going back to his recruitment, I think he pretty much came as a 4 year player.

  • Bill

    Off topic, but saw where Juwan Morgan had , had ,an offer from Harvard listed

    Must be a bright kid. That’s good news.

  • enickman

    No doubt one of the greatest players to ever wear candy stripes! IMO.

  • KmanCRK

    As he enters the internal battle of “2nd round pick or fulfilling the dream of hanging a banner in AH” I really hope he chooses to come back next year and we have a big man ready to join him. I think this team with even just a top 100 type big can go all the way next year.

  • INUnivHoosier

    I have a feeling that if everyone stays, at least two will leave.

  • SCHoosier

    Have you noticed that as good as Napier was..he spent most of his time in the NBA D league this year. Of course he had some jingle in his jeans..but still

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I said it the other day after the game, Yogi is the “best” player in the B1G. He may not be the leading scorer. He may not have the most talent or athletic ability. The fact still remains that this young man does everything. He’s had games where he’s had 6 or 7 rebounds to go with his 5 or assists and 16 points. He’s pretty much always the toughest kid on the floor and he leads his team. I go all the way back to the SMU game where I first saw this year’s Yogi and thought, man, thank God he’s on this team because IU has a shot to win with him.

    Yogi is going to lead this team to a 5-1 or 6-0 finish down the stretch and a return to the NCAA tournament because he’s a winner!

  • dwdkc

    I don’t know that he would move up that much in the draft next year, but he won’t be high enough this year to make it a big temptation. With his size I don’t think he can move into the lottery no matter what he does. So it should come down to how much he enjoys college.

  • No matter what, it has to be an excruciating decision for a kid. The biggest issue for any player with any opportunity to go early is the potential for injury. Go back to college for another year or more, blow out a knee, and lose a career worth millions. Go early, and at least get a contract signed and executed; then if you get injured early in an NBA career, you’ve at least earned something for your years of work.

    Honestly, as much as I hope Yogi comes back, if it’s true that his lottery chances won’t be helped by staying, then I’d leave if I were him. And that’s the advice I’d give him if I were his parents. Note that I’m not versed enough in the NBA to say if it’s worth a kid to get a non-lottery contract signed in case of injury, so everything I say might be worthless if a kid doesn’t get much if he’s not a lottery pick and gets injured early in his career.

  • kaponya44

    It is a must happen scenario regardless.The question is merely who?

    Just not the time to openly speculate with games left and so much remaining to be played for.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Yeah. Not respectful to speculate. It will play out.

  • CreanFaithful

    His dream is to play in the NBA.

  • TomJameson

    I think that with Yogi a lot of it will come down to how much he wants to win and succeed in college. You can always tell, but the end of the MD game showed clearly how much he wants to win. I think he comes back to solidify his status at IU by breaking a ton of records, winning the B1G title, and making a serious run at a national championship.

    I think all those things are possible with the returning core and our recruits as they stand now. A “real” big would be nice, but I sometimes think that would hurt the offensive flow of this team. Depends on how he would be used.

  • beer30

    Good point. I was referring to Yogi, Williams & Blackmon.