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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Column: Ferrell is IU's key to long tournament run

IUBB v James Madison

DAYTON, Ohio - Welcome to the NCAA Tournament, Yogi Ferrell.

You look like you’ve been here before.

In a tournament debut to remember, the freshman guard from Indianapolis showed why the importance of having a good point guard in March is something that cannot be overstated.

“I had so much energy,” Ferrell said. “I feel like to be watching this growing up to finally be playing my first game, I felt good out there.”

More than any other time of the year, the point guard is the captain of the ship in the Big Dance.

When he thrives, the ship gets into the port and the voyage can be successful.

When he falters, icebergs in the form of turnovers and offensive inefficiency begin to pop up in a way that can threaten any team’s chances of going all the way.

Against James Madison, none of those things happened with Ferrell, who was on from the word “go”.

Not only did Ferrell score IU’s first nine points and the first 14 out of the team’s 16 points, he also collected six rebounds before the second media timeout at 11:33 in the first half.

“You know I kind of felt like the lane was just wide open,” Ferrell said. “Even if I didn’t get the initial drive off the transition, I would kick it and they’d get it back to me and I’d drive. I felt like the lane was just open for me.”

When Ferrell is playing and scoring at the level that he played at Friday evening – he finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and only one turnover – the pressure is suddenly taken off of the rest of the Hoosiers to score.

His quickness off the dribble-drive forces other defenders to collapse into the lane in an effort to prevent him from getting to the basket.

Drawing defenders into the lane creates wide-open looks around the perimeter for guys like senior guard Jordan Hulls, junior forward Will Sheehey and senior forward Christian Watford, who all flourished from behind the arc against JMU.

“It’s huge,” Hulls said. “Especially with the start that he had, able to score and get in the lane and get easy buckets that way is huge for everyone else on the perimeter because he’s going to be able to find you.”

Creating open shots for teammates is nice and all, but the end goal – putting the ball through the hoop – is the same no matter who is taking the shots.

That’s why when teammates are missing shots, sometimes you just have to have a point guard that can do it himself.

“Yogi has been on the attack all year,” Sheehey said. “If he gets an open lane, we want him to score and if it’s clogged up we want him to pass. I thought he did a great job making those reads tonight and he had eight rebounds as well, so when he gets those rebounds it starts our break.”

When Yogi scores 14 points or more, the Hoosiers now 5-0 on the season.

Five games is a modest win-loss total to judge the correlation of Ferrell’s high-scoring games, but it’s impressive if you consider when some of those games have occurred.

His first 14-point game was in the championship of Legends Classic against Georgetown.

Another one came on the College Gameday Saturday against then-No. 1 Michigan.

And in perhaps his best performance of the season, Ferrell started off his NCAA Tournament career with a bang.

The point is, in the biggest moments of the season, Ferrell has elevated his game, leaving the Hoosiers better off because of it.

“I feel like this is going to (give me) great confidence,” Ferrell said. “When I went on that little run, Jordan just said ‘pick my spots and don’t force anything’, so I kind of took that and took what the defense gave me.”

A confident “Yogi” is what the Hoosiers need because if teams continue to give him openings, the freshman has what it takes to lead IU all the way.

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