INDIANAPOLIS – If the first half belonged to Kellen Dunham, the second was Yogi Ferrell’s.
Late in the first half of IU’s 82-73 win against No. 23 Butler, Dunham found some space. He rattled off seven consecutive points – including Butler’s only two made jump shots of the half – to erase IU’s lead before halftime.
IU spent 18 minutes building its lead – Dunham took it away in two, on his way to a game-high 23 points.
Absent for much of that lead-building was junior guard Yogi Ferrell, who picked up two fouls and sat for all but nine minutes of the half. IU’s second leading scorer didn’t register a point, missing his only two field goal attempts.
That changed in the second half. Ferrell scored 20 points in the period, leading the way as IU pulled away late.
Ferrell’s explosion, along with another career performance from sophomore forward Troy Williams, carried IU to victory in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The two combined to score 42 of IU’s 82 points, including 30 of its 44 in the second half.
“We needed (Ferrell’s) leadership, whether he’s on the court or off, and in the second half, he brought it at a high, high level,” IU Coach Tom Crean said.
The game turned on a three-possession stretch with just over nine minutes to play.
First, a Ferrell layup gave IU a 61-59 lead. When Butler responded, a Williams jumper took the lead back. Then freshman guard James Blackmon, Jr., finished a layup through contact, made the free throw and stretched the lead to five.
IU never gave back the lead.
Williams continued his fine form, leading IU in both points and rebounds. He finished with 22 and 11, respectively, for his first career double-double.
The 22 points that tied a career high are nice, but a luxury for an IU team loaded with scoring options. His real importance to the Hoosiers comes in other areas.
Williams now leads IU with 5.8 rebounds per game and has cut down on the turnovers that often made him a liability early in the season. After turning the ball over 13 times in his first seven games, Williams has done so just twice in his last two.
“Troy continues to grow,” Crean said. “He’s getting better constantly. They all are.”
The timing of Williams’ breakout made Blackmon’s worst game in an IU uniform more navigable. The nation’s leading freshman scorer shot just 2-of-12 from the field and finished with four points.
Apart from Ferrell and Williams, IU managed just 40 points on 31 percent shooting.
The win was No. 300 in Crean’s head coaching career and IU’s 17th against ranked opponents since the 2011-12 season. Only Kansas has defeated more ranked opponents in that time.
With only two games remaining in the non-conference schedule, it’s still unclear where IU stands. The Hoosiers have knocked off two ranked opponents – then-No. 22 SMU and No. 23 Butler – and beaten a strong Pittsburgh team.
They also lost to Eastern Washington at home and played the 312th-toughest schedule in the nation.
IU will play one final cupcake in New Orleans before a match with Georgetown in New York City on Dec. 27. Then it’s Big Ten time.
For Crean, closing out a game against a team like Butler will make his transition to conference play smoother.
“This is where our inexperience comes in,” Crean said. “This is where playing young players considerable minutes comes in. They’ve got to learn the game is always in the balance.
“There’s no question that’ll help us in a great way, and probably pretty soon.”