Published December 29, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Jacksonville tried everything Friday night against No. 5 Indiana.
They got Cody Zeller in foul trouble and tried to take advantage of the middle without him. They got the ball to their top scorer, freshman Jarvis Haywood.
Jordan Hulls scored a season-high 20 points, made six 3-pointers and the led the Hoosiers to a 93-59 rout over the Dolphins, Indiana's final non-conference tuneup before starting play in the rugged Big Ten.
"He can really shoot the ball, but we didn't do a good job finding him in transition, and we never made him do anything other than shoot 3s," Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren said. "That stretch in the first half where the game was close, he stretched it out by himself."
Haywood scored nine points and Dylan Fritsch had 15, but Jacksonville (5-8) was no match against a short-handed Hoosiers team that had started sluggishly.
The Dolphins dropped to 0-4 this season against power-conference schools, 0-2 all-time against Indiana and have now lost four of their last six overall. Warren still needs one more win to tie former coach Hugh Durham for second in school history (106) and three to break Rollie Rourke's career record (107).
It was so frustrating during the game that Warren even drew a warning from referee Jim Burr, tough Warren had calmed down afterward.
"I thought we came out and played Jacksonville basketball (early)," Warren said. "We were disruptive, we got some deflections and we took a lot of charges because we knew they were going to drive. I just thought we were very in tune to the scouting report."
Hulls changed everything.
With his usually good-shooting teammates having an off-night, he took matters into his own hands. He made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the first half when the Hoosiers desperately needed somebody to pull them out of their shooting funk.
The Hoosiers (12-1) won their third straight — all by at least 34 points — and now head into Big Ten play with momentum. They open league play Monday night at Iowa, where they have lost four straight.
To end that skid and take control of the conference race, Indiana will need a better overall performance than it got against the outsized and overmatched Dolphins (5-8) and more good shooting from Hulls.
"I've been pretty passive and they've been telling me to shoot more," Hulls said, referring to his teammates and coaches. "Growing up I was always a pass-first guy, but I felt good today and I felt good all this week."
Zeller, a front-runner for national player of the year, picked up two fouls in the first 11 minutes and two more in the first eight minutes of the second half. He wound up playing just 19 minutes, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds — most of which came during the last 7½ minutes of the game.
The 7-foot sophomore center wasn't the only one having trouble.
Indiana started the game by missing four shots and committing four turnovers on its first eight possessions, and 10 minutes into the game, the Hoosiers were still clinging to a 21-15 lead. Nobody expected the game to follow this script.
So with Zeller unable to bail them out inside, Hulls rescued the Hoosiers from the outside.
He knocked down one 3-pointer to start a key 9-2 run midway through the first half and made three straight 3s in the final 90 seconds of the half to finally give the Hoosiers some separation.
"He was very aggressive and he's fully capable, there's no doubt," coach Tom Crean said. "We need him to do that, we need him to play that way. The whole team gets better when he gets aggressive."
After Hulls got things started, his teammates took the cue. Victor Oladipo finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Yogi Ferrell, the freshman point guard, had six points, 10 assists and two more steals. Will Sheehey had 14 points and five rebounds, and Christian Watford finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Jacksonville couldn't keep up with that combination even though the Hoosiers were short-handed again. They were already missing two injured players, forward Austin Etherington and guard Maurice Creek, with injuries and lost freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell less than an hour before tip-off when the school announced it and the NCAA were looking into "compliance issues." The statement did not specify what may have occurred.
That didn't matter to Hulls or the Hoosiers, who took control with the 9-2 run, Hulls' late 3-point barrage and an 11-3 spurt early in the second half that made it 63-41.
"It doesn't surprise me at all. I've been in the gym with this guy since I got here and I've seen him make 30 or 40 in a row," Oladipo said, drawing laughter. "We just need him to shoot the ball more."