Beyond the relentless break this Indiana team throws at opponents, beyond the individual talent of their Starting Six, there’s this truth: These Hoosiers, they of the most efficient offense in the country, show a special ability to share the ball and make the extra (and sometimes extra-extra-extra) pass.
A deep look at a prime example of their unselfishness in the latest edition of Film Session.
Indiana punches the lead out to 19 in the second half against North Carolina and the water smells of blood.
Cody Zeller snags a rebound on the left block off a Tar Heel miss. He immediately outlet passes to Jordan Hulls. Hulls pushes it up the left side of the court. Will Sheehey — who bragged before the season that “there’s nobody in the country that can run as far and as long as I can,” and a re-watch of Indiana’s torrid run in the second half can make you a believer in such things — and Victor Oladipo sprint down the right side and look to fill an opening in the middle of the floor near the top of the key:
Yogi Ferrell is down in the right corner already ahead of the defense — he started his sprint down the court with less distance to cover than Sheeladipo — but there’s risk in Hulls playing that angle with Marcus Paige sitting under the free throw line. So Hulls opts to slow things down with Indiana not having the numbers to take advantage, as North Carolina has all five players over halfcourt.
Recognizing there will be no fast-break score here, Sheehey immediately goes and sets a ball screen for Hulls. It becomes a double ball screen when Cody Zeller enters the play as well. You can see that Hulls starts to split the defenders as both ball screens free him from Leslie McDonald and Joel James makes the decision to reach for the ball instead of getting his body in front of Jordy:
If there was any question whether Indiana deserved its No. 1 ranking, last night answered with a resounding “yes.” The Hoosiers dominated the Tar Heels in every facet of the game, utilizing their deep, talented roster to cruise 83-59 at Assembly Hall.
To break down IU’s win last night, ESPN.com’s Eammon Brennan joins hosts Matt Dollinger and Greg Rosenstein on this week’s show. The group also examined IU’s outlook the rest of the season and what questions still remain as Big Ten play approaches.
Among the topics discussed on today’s show:
· Cody Zeller and Jordy Hulls’ dominance against the Tar Heels · The continued improvement of Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey · Christian Watford’s role and his ongoing struggle with consistency · How Indiana would fare in a dream matchup against Duke · Potential problems against Butler and other future opponents
I. Believe they call this a beatdown, friends. Sure, North Carolina kept it respectable in the first half. Indiana didn’t get to the line much (just 6-of-7 through the first 20 minutes for a team with the highest free throw rate in the nation) and were pedestrian from beyond the arc (2-of-8). A little run to end the half — which featured dunks from Cody Zeller, Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo — had the Hoosiers up nine at the break.
But as the second half began, the floodgates opened, the water flowed and flowed, and Roy Williams and crew were helpless against Indiana’s current. Check it: Through the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers threw down a 22-4 run. By the 4:22 mark, they’d ballooned the lead to 32 (83-51). It was a mix of what we’ve come to expect from this team through seven games now: A relentless pushing of the pace for easy buckets in transition, crisp ball movement with extra passing in the halfcourt, inspired, active defense.
Now, this North Carolina program is in the midst of a rebuilding process. (It appears the next wave of serious talent won’t be joining until next season.) Williams lost four players to the draft after last season. P.J. Hairston was out with injury. Butler had its way with this team just last week. Playing inside Assembly Hall has its benefits as well.
Still, you play who is in front of you at this point in the season, and tonight’s performance was certainly one to build upon.
II. That lingering illness Zeller’s been dealing with? A thing of the past.
He beat the Heels down the court for easy buckets time after time in this one, and generally just looked more like a National Player of the Year candidate. (Some speculation: Zeller maybe, just maybe, liked the idea of really putting it on his brother’s former team tonight, a team he flirted with committing to.) His line: 20 points, eight boards. He even added four blocks tonight — a couple of the monster variety — something that hasn’t been a part of his repertoire so far this season.
This is a growing theme so far this season and certainly not a unique point of view either, but here’s the truth: For as good as Zeller is and was tonight, there’s little question Jordan Hulls has meant more to the Hoosiers; he’s their MVP through seven game. The Bloomington native had another sensational game and continues to play with incredible confidence. When Hulls wasn’t scoring — another double-digit performance (13 points) — he was feeding his teammates to the tune of eight assists. He also had seven rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers.
Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey filled in the gaps. Oladipo did a nice job keeping his man in check most of the evening and had a strong night offensively as well — 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Sheehey pumped in 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and hit a couple 3-pointers in the second half that had him going wild on the court.