BLOOMINGTON — Twenty-four hours before Indiana University’s basketball opener Friday at Assembly Hall, Hoosiers’ coach Tom Crean was intense.
A reporter had intimated that perhaps Crean and his team would work on parts of the game and pay little attention to the opponent, Bryant.
Crean took offense to the comment, noting that he coaches every game the same, like everything is on the line.
“We want to win,” Crean said. “And we want to win big.”
Combined with his already-proven coaching excellence, that attitude was behind Indiana’s climb from floundering program to the nation’s No. 1 ranking.
As expected, Indiana opened its season by hammering overmatched Bryant 97-54 on Friday. The unexpected came just before the opening tip when Fred Glass, Indiana’s director of intercollegiate athletics, announced to the crowd that Crean had received a two-year contract extension through the 2020 season.
As the crowd stood and screamed, Crean came on the floor to embrace Glass. Crean, of course, is richer as well. His non-performance-based compensation will increase from approximately $2.52 million to $3.6 million a year. The new contract also adds a bonus for academic performance and could be worth another $55,000 a year.
The contract includes increased buyout and guaranty provisions. Once the contract is signed by all parties, it will be released to the public.
“Tom Crean has done an absolutely phenomenal job bringing Indiana University back to its rightful place as one of the elite basketball programs in the country,” Glass said in a release. “His energy, integrity, ability, passion, industry, vision and commitment are unparalleled.”
Crean said it’s been the same since the first day. “Since we arrived in April of 2008, we have been all in,” Crean said. “Even through all of the challenges our love and passion never wavered for Indiana basketball and all that the school and the state embodies. Once you are part of Indiana University, there is really no desire to work or live anywhere else.”
Doesn’t 2020 seem a lot way off. “I haven’t even thought about it that way,” Crean said. “I was just thinking that it was two extra years.
But when that day comes, I hope we can say we never wavered.”
Crean wasn’t kidding, either, about wanting to win big on Friday night. With a 20-point lead secure just before halftime, he had the full-court press on the Bulldogs with 20 seconds remaining in the half.
Bryant simply had no answer for Hoosiers’ center Cody Zeller, who was like the proverbial man against boys.
Zeller scored 12 points in the opening half and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but his presence was so much more. The Bulldogs couldn’t clear the boards with Zeller constantly keeping the ball alive and the 7-footer’s impact on the defensive end left Bryant settling mostly for outside shots.
“We did some things well tonight,” Zeller said. “But a lot of things we didn’t do well. Tomorrow, we will be right back at it.”
Freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell once again proved that he will be bringing something special to Indiana basketball. Besides his
10 first-half points, that included a few pull-up jumpers as defenders were forced to back off due to his speed driving, his passing again had to excite Crean and his coaching staff. At the 9:13 mark of the opening half, Ferrell completed a play which might become an Indiana staple this season.
He drew a couple of defenders on a charge down the court, and Zeller took advantage by running the floor and crashing the lane. Ferrell flipped the ball to Zeller for an easy dunk, and the Bulldogs looked helpless.
“Yogi has played in a lot of high level basketball games,” Crean said.
“He is a champion.”
Ferrell finished with 10 points and seven assists. “It was a lot more up tempo,” Ferrell said of his first major college basketball game. “But I think I handled it well. Coach wants us to get out and run, that’s when we can be really good.”
Hoosiers forward Christian Watford had 15 points and 15 rebounds. Indiana freshman Jeremy Hollowell, a 6-8 forward, took over the court for a spurt midway through the second half. Hollowell scored eight straight points for the Hoosiers and finished with 12 in his debut.
Indiana had an exceptional defensive night. Bryant shot 32 percent from the floor and was 4 of 29 from the 3-point line.