The #23rd-ranked Butler Bulldogs and the Indiana Hoosiers met in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon to compete in the Crossroads Classic. The Hoosiers continue their reign as a top 5 scoring offense (4th, 87.5 PPG), while shooting just over 50% from the field (9th in the NCAA). The Bulldogs have a stout defense which is ranked 13th in the nation in points against. Indiana has lost to Butler for three consecutive years, and the Hoosiers were looking to give the Bulldogs their first-ever loss in the Crossroads Classic.
Both teams knew coming into the game it was going to be a battle. Sophomore Troy Williams led the Hoosiers in scoring with 12 points, but it was Butler junior Kellen Dunham who stole the show. Dunham, who averages 16.3 PPG this season, had 18 in the first half alone, and went 9/9 from the free throw line. The teams traded baskets throughout the first ten minutes, and in the early stages of the game both teams found themselves tied at 17. The Hoosiers then went on a 9-1 run, but the Bulldogs finished the half on an 11-1 run to tie it back up at 38 at the break.
The Hoosiers played an excellent 15 minute half… too bad there were 5 minutes left. The Bulldogs shot 42% from the floor, but went 11 of 15 from the free throw line. That is too many easy points for the Bulldogs. The Hoosiers offensive rebounding (11 in the first half) should’ve been a bigger factor but really didn’t translate to the scoreboard. Once again the Hoosiers bench showed up to play, scoring 15 of the 38 points in the first half.
When the second half started there was that fear that the Hoosiers were going to collapse like in the Louisville game. And for the first part of the half, those fears seemed justified, as the Hoosiers weren’t effectively playing the game, missing shots and playing less than average defense, but that all changed. Tom Crean emphasized that the Hoosiers needed to play the zone, and boy did that help. The Hoosiers limited Dunham in the second half to only 5 points. The zone also opened up the Hoosiers offense by giving them fast break opportunities.
The biggest storyline of the second half, however, was Yogi Ferrell. The standout junior point guard returned to his hometown of Indianapolis but couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half. However, he bounced back in a big way in the second half, scoring 20 points and delivering the Hoosiers their second win against a top 25 opponent this season (SMU #22). Final Score, 82-73.
Credit for this win goes out to Tom Crean for changing the game plan and reverting to the zone defense in the second half. It really opened up the game for the Hoosiers, allowing the players to rest a little bit on defense, which gave them that extra energy to up the tempo on the other end of the floor. Yogi Ferrell also deserves huge kudos for the way he played in the second half. His absence was noticed in the first half, and you have to believe Tom Crean gave him a nice talking to during halftime. Also huge-ups to Troy Williams, he finished the game with a double-double (22pts, 11 rebs), and that should be huge for his confidence.
This game was a great experience for a young Hoosier team. They faced some adversity, learned from their mistakes, and improved. They didn’t lie down in the second half, instead they rallied to win. The Hoosiers are now 9-2 on the season and have two more non-conference games before starting their conference schedule on the road at Nebraska on New Year’s Eve.