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Indiana University

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vs. Indiana Wesleyan
When: 7 p.m. Today
Associated Press
Indiana’s Christian Watford averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season.

IU senior eager to get going

Watford, Hoosiers play only exhibition tonight

– Nothing against his teammates, but Indiana senior Christian Watford is ready to see some unfamiliar faces.

“I can’t wait to get it started,” Watford said last week at Big Ten media day. “It will be great to play against somebody else.”

Watford and the top-ranked Hoosiers will get a crack at someone else today.

That’s when IU plays its only exhibition game, facing Indiana Wesleyan at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall.

It’s the Hoosiers’ first game since they fell to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 last year in Atlanta. Watford scored 27 points in the contest.

The 6-foot-9 forward will forever be tied to the Kentucky series because of the regular-season meeting between the teams last season. Watford’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifted IU over the then-No. 1 Wildcats.

The shot was replayed multiple times in an ad on ESPN and led to an ESPY Award for the Best Play.

“It was a great experience,” Watford said of attending the ESPYs. “I can’t put into words what that meant for the program. It was a great experience.”

And now he’s back for more experiences at IU.

“Christian Watford shows what happens when you continue to improve,” IU coach Tom Crean said last week.

“The biggest thing for Christian this year, if our team is going to get better, is he needs to model the consistency day in day out that he needs to be, to be at his best, which he is fully capable of.”

Watford averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season. He was second on the team in both categories.

He finished seventh in the Big Ten in rebounding, sixth in free throw percentage (81.5 percent) and sixth in three-point percentage (43.7).

He was also a factor on defense with 27 steals and 16 blocks.

Watford made the All-Big Ten honorable mention list and was named to the All-South Region team in the NCAA tournament.

“I’ve become a better basketball player skill-wise and shooting the basketball and getting to the rim,” Watford said. “My game has changed.”

His 1,287 career points ranks 26th on Indiana’s all-time list.

“He’s done a lot. He’s gotten better every single year. We’ve been through everything together, me, him and Derek (Elston),” Indiana guard Jordan Hulls said.

“He brings a lot to the table. Offensively, he’s a mismatch for a lot of people because he’s 6-foot-9 and he can shoot.

“Defensively, he had to guard the guards last year, too. He’s long and athletic. He’s meant a lot to the program.”

Watford admits much has changed since he first arrived at IU.

“Coming in (his freshman year), we weren’t expected to do much,” Watford said. “Now coming into my senior year, we’re No. 1 in the country. A lot of things have changed. You take it all in stride.”