Coming into IU’s game Saturday against North Florida, both the coaching staff and the players noted how deep the Ospreys were, having a rotation that extended to 10 or 11 players contributing each night. Eight of their players were averaging at least six points per game this season.
Until Saturday night, sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had been the only Hoosier to stick out as a consistent high-scoring option, averaging more than 17 points per game.
In the Hoosiers’ 89-68 win against the Ospreys, it was guard Dallas Moore that took over on the offensive side, scoring a game-high 27 points. But it was IU’s four players in double figures and nine players with at least six points — five of them coming off the bench — that propelled IU to victory.
“You try to get anybody on your team, whether they’re starting or coming off the bench to play with a play on-demand mentality, and I think these guys did that,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “They responded from their disappointment the other night, and we treated it like a short-term setback.”
Graduate student guard Evan Gordon led the way with a season-high 15 points off a 7-for-9 shooting mark from the field. Gordon made each of his first seven shots, threatening a perfect 9-for-9 mark that then-junior Will Sheehey set last season on Feb. 16 at home against Purdue.
Gordon said he didn’t feel any better in the game than any previous contests this season.
He put it simple. Saturday, he said he had to knock down shots, and he was happy to fill that role.
“I’ve been comfortable since the start of the season. It just happened to be a good night,” he said. “I knocked down some shots and got out into the open court and scored a little bit.
“Our team shared the ball. I was open. It’s not going to be like tonight every night, but tonight’s mine, and I had to make sure I knocked down the shots.”
Gordon’s night began with a wide-open 3-pointer from the left corner to begin a 7-0 IU run after North Florida crept within two points at 12-10. Gordon’s reverse left-handed layup less than a minute later capped it and forced an Osprey timeout.
North Florida fought back within four points at 28-24 on an 11-2 run. Minutes later, Gordon and freshman guard Stanford Robinson combined for seven of nine IU points in one minute and 24 seconds to pad IU’s lead as they went into the locker room up 52-35.
After 20 minutes, Ferrell was IU’s lone scorer in double figures with 12 points, but Gordon and Robinson, along with freshman center Luke Fischer, sophomore forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and sophomore guard Austin Etherington provided the necessary energy from the bench to fill roles on both ends of the court.
After the Hoosiers’ bench scored nine of IU’s 11 points and the team’s lead grew past 20 points, Mosquera-Perea and Fischer scored six points each on back-to-back runs of their own. By then, with more than eight minutes left in the game, IU led by more than 30.
Together, IU’s bench scored 41 of the team’s 89 points, while pulling down 21 of the team’s 49 rebounds and committing just four of IU’s season-low 11 turnovers.
Three of IU’s starting five eclipsed 10 points: Ferrell scored 14, followed by freshman forward Noah Vonleh with 13 and sophomore guard Jeremy Hollowell with 12 points.
Gordon led the bench scoring with 15 points and was followed off the bench by Mosquera-Perea’s eight points and Etherington’s six. Robinson and Fischer also each tossed in six points. Robinson finished with eight rebounds, second on the team behind Vonleh — who pulled down 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
Crean said he had eight players come in for an extra workout Saturday morning at 10 a.m. They also stayed around for the team walk-through at 2:30 p.m. and the game that evening.
He said this extra work from guys including Fischer, Etherington, Robinson and Mosquera-Perea has led to their growth and understanding of their roles coming off the bench.
On Saturday night, Gordon was just one prime example of the production any member of IU’s bench may have to have as the Hoosiers venture into conference play in less than a month.
“It just happened to be tonight he (Gordon) got the points,” Etherington said. “He works hard like everyone else, and he deserves what he got tonight, and everyone is happy for him.”
Follow men's basketball reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.