INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana left the court at halftime on Saturday against Butler in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Hoosiers knew they had just blown an opportunity.
They led by ten points with just 3:44 remaining in the half. The scored was tied at the break.
But behind a 20-point second half effort from junior Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers pulled away a second time. And there was no looking back.
Indiana (9-2) won its second game against a ranked opponent this season, topping the No. 23 Bulldogs (8-3) by an 82-73 score in the fourth Crossroads Classic event.
“That was an extremely hard-fought victory,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We knew it would be a great challenge, and we have a lot of respect for Butler. They are a ranked team, and they deserve that ranking. And I’m not sure I can find a lot of weaknesses in their game and in their team.”
As IU’s lead stretched to 11 with just over three minutes remaining in the first half, it looked like its athletes were just too much for Butler. The Bulldogs couldn’t guard Troy Williams. And the disadvantage the Hoosiers were supposed to have on the boards simply wasn’t there as the gang rebounding was in full force.
But, as they do, the Bulldogs mounted a comeback. They ended the half on a 11-1 run with Kellen Dunham scoring nine of those. Indiana was unable to get the momentum it had built in the first half going in the second. The Hoosiers trailed by six with 13:48 to go and it felt like it might be slipping away.
Enter Yogi Ferrell.
The junior point guard didn’t score a point in the first half and sat due to two early fouls. But when his team needed him to crawl back into this one there he was. Ferrell’s first bucket of the game was a triple to cut that six-point Butler lead in half. He kept going, muscling his way to the bucket for scores at the rim and points at the line. He moved well off the ball for another 3-ball. He stopped on a dime on the break, launched a 3-pointer, hit it and placed his elbows at his side with the 3-salute going with both hands. Williams popped his jersey at the IU bench.
That one put the Hoosiers up 10 and just about sealed the deal, save for some late full-court press from the Bulldogs that made you hold your breath a bit.
Ferrell scored 20 second half points and willed his team to a comeback win. That’s what leaders do.
INDIANAPOLIS — Butler coach Chris Holtmann, along with junior Kellen Dunham and senior Kameron Woods, met with the media following the Bulldogs’ 82-73 loss to Indiana in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 23 Butler in the annual Crossroads Classic, Tom Crean said he already has known for a while what the game will come down to.
“Rebounding will be a huge factor in the game tomorrow,” he said on Friday. “No matter who wins it, that number is going to probably have a lot to do with it.”
Indiana’s rebounding issues have been well-documented this season — the Hoosiers allow opponents to rebound 35 percent of their misses, ranking No. 274 in the country as of Friday afternoon. Butler, meanwhile, rebounds 35.2 percent of its misses — ranking in the top 75 in the nation. Indiana has had time to prepare, though.
With final exams this week, the Hoosiers have not played since Saturday against Grand Canyon — leaving them time to prep for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In that span, sophomore Collin Hartman said, Crean has come up with a game plan for the Bulldogs. A plan the Hoosiers are quite confident in.
“We have a great game plan,” Hartman said. “We just have to focus on staying with them and defending. They’re a tough team. They play hard, they crash the boards. We have to box out and run with them on the floor. Just stay to us and focus on what we need to do and our own game plan.”
What caught the Hoosiers’ attention the most about Butler this season stemmed from its 74-66 win over North Carolina — in which the Bulldogs had 28 offensive rebounds against the then No. 5-ranked team in the country. In that game, 6-foot-9 Kameron Woods led the team with eight offensive boards. Just behind him, a name Indiana is all-too familiar with: 6-foot-4 junior Roosevelt Jones, with six.