No. 1/1 Indiana had another strong offensive game on Saturday, and it looks as if the Hoosiers can play defense, too.
While Christian Watford scored 21 points and Cody Zeller had 19 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, it was the Hoosiers' suffocating defense that had the starring role in a 100-69 victory over Central Connecticut State.
Indiana is off to its second straight 9-0 start under Tom Crean. It has won 13 straight at Assembly Hall and 27 consecutive non-conference home games.
"I was really proud of these players for a lot of reasons," said head coach Tom Crean. "Number one, they had a great week of preparation. They were absolutely locked in, and our play showed it. They just played at a very high level."
Coming into the weekend, the matchup looked like an intriguing shootout. After all, Central Connecticut State (4-4) has one of the most potent scorers in the country in Kyle Vinales and another dangerous option in Matt Hunter.
Instead of a tight one, this one was over in the first half, with Indiana using a full week of preparation to clamp down on the Blue Devils.
Offensively, the Hoosiers were almost flawless, connecting on 22 of 35 shots in the first half and shooting 54.2 percent for the game. They made seven 3-pointers. In their first 22 baskets, 12 were layups or dunks.
Defensively, it was also an impressive show for the improving Hoosiers. Central Connecticut State shot just 33.3 percent and Vinales, the nation's top scorer at 25.9 points per game, was just 3 of 15 from the field and finished with seven points.
Hunter poured in 40 points, matching an Assembly Hall record for a visiting player, but the Blue Devils (4-4) never had a chance against Indiana's comprehensive performance.
They did take one lead, on the game's first basket, and were within one with 14:15 left in the first half.
That's when the Hoosiers cranked up the heat on both ends of the floor.
Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell started the decisive 22-2 run with a spinning 2-footer. Jordan Hulls followed with a 3. Then Zeller posted up for a layup, Maurice Creek hit another 3 and Zeller posted up for another layup to make it 27-16 with 11:44 to go.
Central Connecticut State never got within single digits again, and that was just the start.
When Victor Oladipo drove in for a thunderous one-handed dunk, drew a foul and completed a three-point play, Indiana led 37-16 and the crowd was roaring. Oladipo had 15 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
The Hoosiers led 53-34 at halftime. After Central Connecticut State opened the second half with a basket, Indiana went on a 13-5 run that made it 66-41.
Indiana lead by as many as 37 in the second stanza en route to the 100-69 win.
"We got a lot of really good basketball, I mean Cody [Zeller] with 19 [points] and 19 [rebounds]-- goodness gracious, it was fantastic," said Crean. "It wasn't like he was given any advantages around the basket by any stretch of the imagination, so he earned everything that he got. I thought Christian [Watford] played really well and again triggered his defense. Victor [Oladipo] had 20 deflections and five steals drawing the assignment of the nation's leading scorer and did a fantastic job. They're a hard team to play, and we knew they would be, but that's where everybody is trying to do their very best. We definitely wanted to take [Kyle] Vinales out of the game. It created a few more opportunities for other people. I thought [Kevin] "Yogi" [Ferrell] did a great job on his match-up and at the same time played a great floor game. He had six assists in 27 minutes and to control the ball the way that he did, he played outstanding. Will Sheehey gave us a lot of solid minutes. Jordan [Hulls] was very content to move the ball and very content to be a strong defender. Remy [Abell] and Maurice [Creek] all came in."
Oladipo netted 15 points and added nine rebounds, five steals, three blocks and two assists. Will Sheehey came off the bench and registered 12 points and six rebounds, and Hulls scored 10 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and one steal. Ferrell tallied eight points, six assists and two steals.
The Hoosiers 54.2 percent (39-of-72) from the field on the game and won the battle on the boards, 53-31.
"Bottom line is there is a lot of room for improvement in our team," Crean added. "That's never going to go away. We can get better. We will get better, and I thought our guys did a really good job of playing through their emotions throughout the game."
Indiana returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 15, when they face Butler at Banker Life Fieldhouse at 2 p.m. ET on CBS in the Boston Science Close the Gap Crossroads Classic.