To start the IU men’s basketball team’s battle against Stony Brook Sunday at Assembly Hall, the Seawolves got a fresh dose of IU’s returning leadership at its best.
After Stony Brook won the tip and scored for the team’s only lead of the game, senior forward Will Sheehey executed a smooth backdoor cut, and sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell found his teammate for the easy bucket.
Two trips later, Sheehey drove it to the hole himself for a reverse layup after a pass from Ferrell.
Ferrell flipped the ball behind his back the next time down right to Sheehey, who sunk the 3-pointer to give IU a 7-3 lead.
Seven points. Three assists.
But Sheehey would score just two more points and foul out, as the Hoosiers had to work through a string of missed free throws and foul calls for a 90-74 win against the Seawolves.
Just a little over 90 seconds later, IU Coach Tom Crean subbed out three of his starting lineup – including Sheehey – because he felt like he saw a lack of energy from the group on the floor as the offense stagnated. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh missed 3-of-4 free throws and Sheehey committed his first turnover of the game.
Freshman forward Colin Hartman, who has now become a regular in coming off the bench in the first wave, managed to grab a spark in place of Sheehey on the court, Crean said.
“We had hit a lull. We were quiet. We were a little flat, whether we were getting disappointed they were missing foul shots, whether we thought it should be a little easier — whatever a young team goes through,” Crean said. “We hit a lull, and Colin came in and changed the energy level.”
Sheehey didn’t spend much time on the bench, but when he came back in, he just wasn’t the same.
The senior missed two chances from behind the arc, similar to the one he made in the game’s opening minutes. He managed a dunk with nine minutes and 45 seconds remaining in the half, but with six minutes and 45 seconds left, Sheehey committed his second foul, this time on the offensive end, and Crean sat him down for the rest of the half.
The Hoosiers were managing to draw fouls themselves with the new rules for this season, but they struggled from the line in the first half, shooting just 15-for-28 from the charity stripe, while managing 60 percent from the field.
The Seawolves only managed 11 attempts from the line. They made eight to keep them within striking distance at 41-35 at halftime.
Sheehey started again in the second half, while regular starter sophomore guard Jeremy Hollowell sat in exchange for freshman forward Luke Fischer.
Crean said it didn’t matter to him as much who started but how guys were making use of their playing time and bringing energy to the floor.
Sheehey committed his third foul of the night less than a minute into the half and again was sat down for Hartman.
Crean said that he was a little frustrated with his players adjusting to the foul calls Sunday, adding that no matter how many are called and how rare of calls they may see, they have to move onto the next play.
“If you can’t adjust to it mentally, if you can’t adjust to it physically, you can’t adjust,” Crean said. “The last foul you had cannot affect your next play.”
After six minutes on the bench, Sheehey came in with 13 minutes and seven seconds left in the half, his team with a 57-47 lead, but he exited again 45 seconds later with his fourth foul.
His younger teammates kept the game just out of reach in his absence.
Vonleh recorded his fourth-straight double-double to start his IU career with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Fellow-freshman forward Troy Williams added eight points and six rebounds. Each committed just a single foul in 56-combined minutes.
Ferrell led all scorers with a team-high 24 points, while sitting all of five minutes during the action.
Sheehey made his final short appearance with two minutes and 31 seconds left, fouling out 11 seconds later after he got in Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney’s way while he pursued a rebound going out of bounds.
Some heard Crean say to Sheehey as he walked to the bench, “If you don’t want to play, sit down.”
He finished with nine points, two turnovers, five fouls and zero assists or rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
“There were certain energy levels all night of guys that I didn’t like. In that situation when you just get back in, Will’s better than that,” Crean said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior. If we and if I don’t hold them accountable to make those adjustments ... then what am I?
“I love him to death, but we needed more from him tonight. Those fouls play with you, and you’ve got to move on.”
Follow men's basketball reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.