BLOOMINGTON – Indiana already had the nation’s top scoring team.
With a short break and some extra practice, the Hoosiers are getting even better.
Cody Zeller finished with 24 points and six rebounds, Christian Watford added 17 points and No. 6 Indiana continued its dominant offense in Friday’s 88-52 rout over Florida Atlantic.
I think we’re playing better defense, we’re playing better in transition, I think our defense is the reason we do so well on offense, Victor Oladipo said. We have a lot of weapons, we have the big fellow inside and different players scoring. But when we play defense and we score off turnovers, we play at a high level, we score easy baskets.
Whatever the explanation, the Hoosiers (11-1) have been efficient since Saturday’s loss to Butler.
They are a combined 64 of 106 from the field (60.4 percent) in the past two games, have limited those overmatched opponents to 36 of 110 (32.8 percent shooting) and won the games by a combined total of 75 points. On Friday, they made 26 of 27 free throws.
Those numbers would be even more lopsided if coach Tom Crean hadn’t pulled his primary players late in the game – or if Indiana hadn’t gone through a cold spell in the closing minutes.
But none of those things mattered to a team that is playing as if it belongs back in the No. 1 spot in the AP poll.
Zeller controlled the inside all night as Indiana held a 41-28 rebounding edge, and he had plenty of help.
Watford was 5 of 9 from the floor. Oladipo had 16 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Hulls finished with 10 points, and Will Sheehey scored nine, falling one short of putting five Hoosiers in double figures for the second time this week.
Freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who was suspended by the NCAA for Indiana’s first nine games for accepting improper benefits from a school booster, delivered his best game, too, scoring four points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 14 minutes.
Could his emergence make the Hoosiers even better?
It was the quickest 10 rebounds I’ve ever seen, man, Zeller said. That’s what he does, that’s what he brings to the table for us, he’s going to help us a lot.
It was a rough night for Florida Atlantic (5-7), which went seven minutes without a basket in the first half and couldn’t get closer than 28 points in the second half.
Only one player, Greg Gantt, scored in double figures, finishing with 25 points – four short of breaking Earnest Crumbley’s school scoring record (1,559 points). Only two players had more than two rebounds for the Owls – backup Kelvin Penn (six) and center Dragan Sekelja (five).
Coach Mike Jarvis was resigned to the fact that it was going to be this kind of night for his team.
I knew it was going to be almost impossible, Jarvis said. Even if we have all of our players, we don’t Indiana beat right now. But I want to get a team good enough where we can come back here and beat their butts and that’s going to be one of my goals for myself before I die.
Indiana came into the game leading the nation in scoring (89.2 points) and No. 3 in field-goal shooting (52.1 percent).
Playing twice in three nights and having some extra time to work on the finer points only helped. The Hoosiers opened the game by going 9 of 12 from the floor and pulled away quickly.
Zeller tied the score at 6 on a 15-foot jumper and broke the final tie of the night with a three-point play on Indiana’s next possession. Oladipo followed that with a driving layup, Sheehey made a 15-footer and a three-pointer, and the Hoosiers were off on a 20-2 spurt. When it ended, the Hoosiers led 24-8 midway through the first half.
They weren’t finished.
After a three from Gantt, Indiana went on an 18-6 run to make it 42-17. Things went so well that Oladipo even made a three off the top of the backboard – a play that prompted Jarvis to walk onto the floor to argue that the ball had gone over the backboard and was out of bounds.
Jarvis wound up with a technical foul, but all that did was hand Indiana two more points on the way to a 55-25 halftime lead.
The Hoosiers put it away by scoring seven straight points early in the second half to make it 64-29.
Our guys were locked in. They had a great week, they’ve had a great year, Crean said. I’m glad they’re getting a break, a chance to go home and recharge a little bit and see their families, and the great thing about it is they’re not playing like they need one. Our team is full throttle right now and they’re only going to get better.