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IU's defense looks to improve, reap benefits for offense



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Senior guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell celebrates with his teammates after scoring during IU’s game against Eastern Illinois on Friday at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers won 88-49. James Benedict and James Benedict Buy Photos

The best defense is a good offense, at least according to an old adage. After having the least efficient defense in the Big Ten last season, IU Coach Tom Crean said he hopes an improved defense will reap benefits for his team’s already-potent offense.

No. 14 IU forced a season-best 23 turnovers Monday night — the most turnovers forced by IU since December 2011 — in a 102-76 victory against Austin Peay. The Hoosiers cashed the Austin Peay turnovers in for 33 points, nearly a third of the team’s three-digit total.

“I feel like more this year we’re priding (ourselves) on picking up full (court), getting up into the ball more,” senior guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell said. “Against a team like this, when they have such a great post player like they did with Chris Horton, we need to put on-the-ball pressure so it can be hard for him to get inside and score on us.”

The 6-foot-8 Horton had his way with IU’s interior defense, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, as Austin Peay went point-for-point with IU in the paint.

“We’re not going to accept them getting into the post so easily like that,” Ferrell said. “But if that happens, then we’ve just got to find a way for them not to score.”

The Hoosiers turned Horton over five times and fellow forward Kenny Jones on three occasions and the Governors couldn’t contain the Hoosiers’ transition offense. IU scored 29 fast-break points in the game.

“Our defensive energy was really good, even when we made mistakes we played with energy,” Crean said. “We probably gambled a little bit too much, a little bit too reckless. There’s a give-and-take to that.”

After recording a defensive stop that ended in an IU block and recovery, an unforced Austin Peay turnover or an IU steal, IU scored 16 times on its ensuing offensive possession.

Senior forward Max Bielfeldt ripped away the ball from Austin Peay’s Zach Glotta and handed the ball off to Williams, who only needed six dribbles as he stormed down court for a 180-degree dunk. Seconds later, sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. intercepted a cross-court pass and threw it ahead to Williams, who again scored.

Austin Peay Coach Dave Loos was forced to call a timeout, bringing the fans in Assembly Hall to their feet.

The Hoosiers’ 14 steals were the program’s most since 2011, one shy of IU’s single-game record under Crean.

But turnovers were a red flag for the Hoosiers too. IU turned the ball over 20 times.

Crean walked into the post-game press conference and said “(It’s) hard to find a lot of criticisms when you make 15 straight shots.”

But taking care of the ball and punishing opponents for not doing so is one area in which his team can still grow.

“We didn’t capitalize on the turnovers, we took from them as much as we need to,” Crean said. “So to answer my own question, we’re finding the criticisms right now.”

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