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Temple’s Khalif Wyatt: Oladipo ‘not the first good defender’

IUJMUITH0010DAYTON, Ohio — In a lot of ways, Temple’s Khalif Wyatt and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo are spitting images of one another. Both were under recruited and overlooked by most of the country when they were in high school, and both have blossomed into two of the best players in college basketball.

Wyatt, the player of the year in the stacked Atlantic 10 Conference, was rated as just a two-star recruit by Rivals.com. He had only three offers — Temple, Delaware and St. Joe’s. He was overlooked because of his uncommon build for a guard (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), and his rather unorthodox playing style.

Wyatt has found his niche with Fran Dunphy and Temple, though it didn’t work at first.

“In the beginning, he had his way of doing things and I had mine,” Dunphy said Saturday. “We were trying to get together on it, but he was a pain in the butt sometimes, and he’ll be the first to tell you. But he’s grown. … Now he’s a very low-maintenance guy. Early in his career he was killing me with high maintenance.”

Oladipo’s story is one you probably know much better. It’s been written and talked about time and again this season. He was an athletic, gregarious kid without a basketball skill set. He couldn’t shoot, dribble or score all that well, so he focused on defense.

When he got to Indiana, he worked and worked and worked, and grew into a national player of the year candidate. And the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year.

On Sunday afternoon in Dayton, Wyatt and Oladipo will meet. It figures to be some matchup to watch.

“He’s a good defender,” Wyatt said of Oladipo, “but, I mean, not the first good defender.”

Dunphy said what makes Wyatt a great player and what made him a recruiting target years ago is and was his fearlessness as a player. Wyatt averages more than 20 points per game on the season, and he has scored 30 or more in two of his last three games. He put 33 points on Syracuse in a winning effort earlier this season.

Wyatt certainly won’t be afraid of Oladipo.

“He’s really good,” Oladipo said. “This won’t be the first time I’ve seen him play. He can score the basketball in different ways.”

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Video, Transcript: Crean, IU players discuss Temple

Tom Crean, as well as Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls, addressed the media on Saturday in anticipation of Sunday’s bout with the Temple Owls.

Watch the players:

And Crean:

Complete transcript after the jump.

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HD Video: Indiana players talk Temple

DAYTON, Ohio —  Watch and listen to what the IU players had to say inside their locker room of the University of Dayton Arena as they prepared for Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game with Temple.

High-definition quality video is available in the embedded media players below:

Surprised by Yogi’s stat line? You shouldn’t be

IUJMUITH0003DAYTON, Ohio — Yogi Ferrell is often ignored and overlooked because, frankly, you can’t talk about everybody at the same time. Ferrell happens to play on a team with guys named Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller with a coach named Tom Crean. There aren’t enough headlines to go around.

But if you spend any amount of time around the Indiana program, you know how important Ferrell is to this program. How valued he is. How loved.

Ferrell’s first-half burst against 16th-seeded James Madison in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday was probably viewed by some as a coming out party of sorts. His name was trending on Twitter nationally by halftime. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“I helped recruit and coach Jameer Nelson for four years,” said James Madison coach Matt Brady, a former assistant at St. Joe’s. “He’s got some of Jameer’s qualities. He’s got that same burst of speed. Jameer’s probably a little better long-range shooter, but he seems to have the leadership skills that Jameer had. He seems to have control of that team. It’s fun to watch.”

Ferrell’s performance on Friday was impressive, but what is often forgotten is that Ferrell has been one of the steadiest forces on this team all year long. He’s quarterbacked the Hoosiers from the start, despite his youth and inexperience. When Ferrell comes off the court, the team doesn’t function nearly as well on either end.

“He’s always on the attack,” junior Will Sheehey said. “He makes everyone so much better when he drives in the lane and kicks, gives everyone else opens shots. I know I always benefit off of Yogi’s drives.”

Crean, Oladipo and Zeller have gotten the majority of the credit for Indiana taking the next step this season, and rightly so. But don’t forget about Ferrell, who has quietly become one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders and more efficient point guards.

“The stars were out, the lights were on, and he came to perform. He did a great job for us,” Oladipo said.

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Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over James Madison

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DAYTON, Ohio — There was plenty of talk about a 16-seed beating a one-seed leading into this NCAA Tournament, but Indiana would have none of it on Friday afternoon at the University of Dayton Arena. The Hoosiers started quickly en route to a comfortable 83-62 win over James Madison.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Hoosiers’ win over the Dukes:

· Ferrell fuels quick start: His scoring numbers weren’t gaudy, but Yogi Ferrell quietly engrained himself as the point man on one of the nation’s best teams. Early on against James Madison, it appeared that the Dukes were so focused on trying to contain Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo that they almost didn’t realize that Ferrell was capable of putting up points in bunches. Those of us who covered Ferrell throughout his prep career know he’s more than capable of doing just that and James Madison learned the hard way on Friday as the Park Tudor product scored nine points in three minutes and eighteen seconds. Ferrell’s start set the tone for a game that was really never close the rest of the way. “He was awesome,” James Madison coach Matt Brady said. “We knew how fast he was. We knew he’s really talented. We know he’s the guy that kind of makes them go.”

· IU puts on an offensive clinic: James Madison didn’t put up much resistance, but Friday marked IU’s best offensive performance from an efficiency standpoint since a 76-47 beat down of Nebraska in Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers finished with 1.28 points per possession, hit 9-of-23 attempts from three, dished out 17 assists and only committed nine turnovers. Indiana also had five guys finish in double figures and had a sixth player, Christian Watford, with nine. “They ran. They ran faster than any team we ever played,” James Madison freshman Andre Nation said. “They threw the first punch, and they threw another punch, and they kept throwing them, and we weren’t throwing any back.”

· Hoosiers get engaged defensively: Defense stopped IU’s NCAA Tournament last March as the Hoosiers allowed eventual national champion Kentucky to put up 102 points in a regional semifinal loss in Atlanta. But the Hoosiers have gone with the narrative of defense  leading to offense all season long, and that was the case against James Madison as 10 turnovers by the Dukes turned into 15 IU points. The Dukes finished with just .97 points per possession. “We weren’t giving them easy baskets,” Tom Crean said when asked to evaluate IU’s defensive performance. “There was a couple here and there, but we were challenging our guys. We were talking about pick-and-roll coverage, really, really locked into personnel. I can’t stress enough how proud I am of the way that they did that because they’ve done that all year long.”

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Photo Gallery: Indiana vs. James Madison

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DAYTON, Ohio — Check out 24 photos by Jamie Owens from Indiana’s 83-62 win over James Madison in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena in the embedded photo gallery after the jump. Purchase prints from J. Scott Sports.

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The Minute After: James Madison

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Thoughts on an 83-62 win against the Dukes:

This was how it was supposed to go.

Indiana did not mess around, did not let the Dukes for a second think an upset was brewing. Yogi Ferrell, with JMU perhaps keying on Cody Zeller and all the shooters around him, hit on drives at the rim and from beyond the arc. He scored the Hoosiers’ first nine points as JMU scored none. 9-0 Hoosiers, and the blowout was on.

This had the look and feel of an early season non-conference home game for the Hoosiers. The talent gap between them and their opponent was vast and the game was pretty much over at halftime. But as we also saw in those games, Tom Crean made sure his Hoosiers remained engaged after halftime. They would full-court press; they would trap in the halfcourt; they would keep the pedal firmly to the metal. Their edge remained intact. Some late 3-pointers from JMU would take this from a 30-ish point victory for the Hoosiers to where it finished up — a 21-point win.

The numbers impress: The Hoosiers ended the game scoring 1.297 points per possession with an eFG percentage of 60.9. Indiana also snagged 41.4 percent of their offensive rebounding opportunities for 12-second chance points and scored 15 points on the fastbreak. It also was pretty good with the ball, turning it over on just 14.1 percent of its possessions.

They held JMU to .969 points per possession and just 41.9 shooting from the field. (Though, Andre Nations, who had five blocks in the Dukes’ win against LIU-Brooklyn deserves some love here. He led all scorers with 24 points and appears to have a bright future ahead of him as a two-way player.) Ferrell finished the early evening with a (sorta) near triple-double: 16 points (7-of-12), eight rebounds and six assists. This was a terrific debut for Indiana’s quarterback to start the NCAA Tournament. Jordan Hulls got out of his slump some, as he hit 2-of-5 from distance, 3-of-6 overall and 2-of-2 from the line for 10 points. Others joined Hulls and Ferrell in double-digits. Zeller had 11 (4-of-5 from the field, including some strong dunks, 3-of-4 from the line). Victor Oladipo scored 11 (3-of-7, 4-of-4 from the line).

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