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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Ferrell jolts IU to rout in NCAA opener

DAYTON, Ohio - For all the buzz about IU's undeniable size advantage against James Madison, it was IU's shortest starter serving as catalyst for a "Big Dance" blowout Friday.

Freshman guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell scored IU's first nine points as IU took the lead early and never trailed in its NCAA Tournament opener in Dayton, Ohio, winning 83-62 and advancing to play ninth-seeded Temple on Sunday.

"There’s no need for extra motivation in the NCAA Tournament," sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. "You can’t take any team lightly. It’s win or go home. We’re playing for our lives here."

Ferrell, all of 6-foot-0-inches and 178 pounds and playing in his first NCAA Tournament, led IU with 16 points. Building on his opening spree, he scored 14 of IU's first 16 points. With eight rebounds and six assists, both of which led his team, Ferrell's contributions were not limited to scoring alone.

"It’s a big key for us that he can rebound, just because it cuts a few seconds off our break and we can get out and run," Zeller said. "Our offense is definitely going to move fast if he can get the rebound and go."

With Ferrell attacking on both jumpers and drives up the lane, IU jumped to a quick 9-0 lead, eclipsing his season scoring average of 7.8 in less than four minutes.

"I was just trying to push the ball in transition really and find openings," Ferrell said. "The lane kind of just opened up for me, and I just kept attacking at the beginning. When they closed it up, I'd just kick out. So those first early drives really helped us."

With Ferrell having started every game this season for IU, including a rigorous Big Ten slate, Zeller said he no longer sees his teammate as a freshman and only one thing would really surprise him at this point.

“I would be surprised if he could dunk it," Zeller said. "You can tell him I said that."

The Dukes did not score until 3:45 in, and by then the damage was done. Another Hoosier finally got on the board as Zeller responded with a dunk almost instantly.

At 7-feet, Zeller stood six inches taller than any JMU starter and was able to take advantage, weaving inside for a early offensive rebounds.

IU's other consistent post presence, senior forward Christian Watford, tried to take advantage of JMU's smaller lineup as well, but found the Dukes collapsing on him almost every time he entered the paint.

Instead, he scored his only bucket of the first half by stepping outside, draining a 3-pointer that put IU up 24-10.

The shot pushed him past Brian Evans for 10th all-time on the school's career scoring list and gave him more than 1700 career points in his four years at IU. He finished with nine points.

With JMU focusing on Watford, Zeller and now Ferrell, the IU lead continued to grow as other players picked up where Ferrell left off.

IU's size and athleticism, evident in crafty maneuvering from junior guard Victor Oladipo and junior forward Will Sheehey, helped the Hoosiers speed up the pace and pull away, pushing the lead to 29-10 in the first half.

"I knew they’d be double-teaming or triple-teaming me to start with," Zeller said. "I just tried to be aggressive, find the open shooter. I don’t care if I’m the one that scores. It was definitely a focus for them to get it out of my hands."

JMU players were doubled over, hands on their knees, at nearly every stoppage of play, clearly winded in a way they never were in their opening matchup with LIU Brooklyn Wednesday evening.

Fortunately for them, though, IU's shooting went cold for several minutes and the ball bounced the Dukes' way for several offensive rebounds, their physicality seemingly disrupting IU as planned.

JMU closed within 14 points, at 34-20, before a reinvigorated IU team pulled away once again on a 9-0 run, all points coming from either Sheehey and senior guard Jordan Hulls.

Ferrell finally missed a shot early in the second half. He would up missing another three in a row, and indeed became more of a distributor in the period, with three second-half assists.

Instead, IU's junior wings led the charge, showcasing an athleticism JMU simply could not match as the IU fast break got back into gear and pushed the lead to 30, where it would hover for much of the second half.

The Dukes were forced to resort once more to their physicality, committing 11 second-half fouls. One in particular showcased JMU's desperation.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Oladipo stole the ball - giving him IU's single-season steals record with 75 - and had a seemingly clear path across the length of the court to the basket.

As he approached the hoop and launched into the air, JMU's Alioune Diouf fouled him hard in the back and sent Oladipo tumbling. The crowd groaned as it was denied the spectacle of an Oladipo jam. Undeterred, Oladipo made both free throws and continued to lead the charge.

With less than eight and a half minutes to go, Oladipo drove for another layup. Moments later, Sheehey intercepted the JMU inbounds pass and leaped for a layup of his own.

With more reserves entering the game for IU, the Dukes sliced several points off the lead, but never got within less than 21 points.

By the time sophomore guard Remy Abell shot free throws with less than two minutes remaining, no starters were still in for IU. Abell sank both, and several more free throws help sew up IU's most lopsided victory in more than a month.

"Just running up the court, just running the breaks is just a lot of fun, especially to get this win, our first win, especially my first win, my first game," Ferrell said. "But just to be out there and play with these guys was just a lot of fun."

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