There was intensity to the end of Indiana’s 101-53 blowout of Ball State on Sunday at Assembly Hall. And that’s not talking about the Hoosiers players.
That’s expected in Tom Crean’s program. It was the fans who remained at a fever pitch in the waning seconds as Hoosier sophomore forward Austin Etherington hit a driving lay-up to give Indiana its 99th and 100th points. Etherington was fouled on his drive and he also buried the free throw.
Whether Indiana could reach the century mark was the only drama on a night when Crean’s players tuned up for Tuesday’s matchup at Assembly Hall against North Carolina with a public flogging of the Cardinals.
While some fans finally started heading toward the exits at the 3:55 mark with Indiana up 92-45, most of them stayed until the bitter — for Ball State — end. They weren’t disappointed. If Crean wanted his players sharp going into the game against the Tar Heels, he must have loved Sunday’s effort.
After Indiana went 2 for 6 from the field to start the game, the Hoosiers connected on 20 of 28 shots for the rest of the half.
The Hoosiers led 50-19 at intermission.
Three Indiana players scored in double figures and one had nine points … at halftime. This was accomplished against a team that has been first or second in scoring defense in the Mid-American Conference the past four seasons.
Junior forward Will Sheehey led Indiana with 19 points off the bench. Sheehey hit eight of nine shots and had six rebounds.
“I took open shots and my teammates found me,” Sheehey said of his big night. “Everyone does their job here.”
Senior guard Jordan Hulls hit seven of 10 shots from the field, including three of six on 3-pointers, to finish with 17 points.
“I’m trying to be more aggressive and to do whatever their team needs me to do,” said Hulls, who also had three rebounds and three assists
Of course, Hulls knows that it won’t be so easy on Tuesday.
“We’re excited about a good opponent,” Hulls said. “We are going to go now and get after the game film.” Senior forward Christian Watford had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 13 points and junior guard Maurice Creek had all nine of his points in the first half. Indiana’s defense made it a miserable night for Ball State.
The Cardinals (2-2) shot 20 percent in the first half (five for 25) and 30.9% for the game. Jennings County High School graduate Zach Fields, a 6-10 center who lost 30 pounds in the off-season to earn a starting role at Ball State, had a tough night trying to guard Zeller.
Fields had four personal fouls in 13 minutes and finished with four rebounds. Crean did not address the media following the game.
Associate head coach Tim Buckley took his place. Buckley said it shouldn’t be a surprise that Indiana continued to play hard long after the game was put away.
“Every practice has the intensity of a game,” Buckley said. “That’s what everyone expects every time we get together.”
Now the Hoosiers will prepare for North Carolina.
“You’ll want to wear a neck brace,” Buckley said. “It’s going to be up and down the floor. It’s going to be a very fast type of environment. North Carolina is very good on the backboards so we have to do a great job on the boards.”