Friday January 23rd, 2015

Indiana won what many expected to be a battle of freshman phenoms against Maryland on Thursday. Instead, the Hoosiers put on a clinic on offense and dominated the narrative in the Big Ten matchup.

Freshman James Blackmon Jr., who entered as the Big Ten’s sixth-leading scorer (16.6 points per game), contributed 22 points and Yogi Ferrell hit seven 3-pointers as No. 23 Indiana ripped No. 13 Maryland 89-70. Blackmon, Ferrell and the Hoosiers’ offense overshadowed a sluggish outing from the Terrapins’ own freshman star, Melo Trimble, who scored just 10 points.

Thursday’s matchup was Indiana’s first as a ranked team since the end of the 2012-13 season. With the win, the Hoosiers (15-4, 5-1) moved into a tie with Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten. And if this offense keeps improving, the rest of the league might be in trouble.

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The Terps’ defense, which entered Thursday allowing just 61.4 points per game and ranking 16th in KenPom’s adjusted defense, was expected to be a challenge for Indiana’s potent offense. Plus, Maryland had adjusted to its new conference just fine, beating Michigan State twice during a strong start to Big Ten play. But even the Terps’ stingy defense wasn’t enough to keep the Hoosiers from going crazy, especially in the second half.

Maryland kept things tight through the first half, trailing Indiana 38-35 at the break despite a shoddy first period from Trimble (3 points, 2 turnovers). But the Hoosiers found their groove in the second half, using an 11-3 run to take a 49-38 lead with just over 15 minutes to play.

A Hoosier offense that came in ranked 15th in KenPom’s efficiency rankings connected on 60 percent of its shots, becoming just the second Maryland opponent to surpass 50 percent shooting this season. That mark included 15 3-pointers against a Terrapin defense that ranked No. 12 nationally in three-point percentage allowed, per KenPom. Moreover, four Indiana players scored in double-figures as it became the first team to surpass 80 points against Maryland.

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As the game slipped away from Maryland, the student section at Assembly Hall began hurling chants of “OVERRATED” in the Terps’ general direction. That seems like a knee-jerk diagnosis for a team that has only one real blemish on its resume in a 64-57 loss to Illinois (not to mention a stupid thing for any fan base to say given that it devalues having beaten that team). This is still a very good Maryland team, and if not for a few defensive lapses on the perimeter down the stretch, things might’ve turned out differently in Bloomington.

But Indiana did a remarkable job of making the game look like a mismatch in the second half. When the Hoosiers get hot, there might not be a more dangerous team in the league. The question is how consistent Ferrell and Indiana's offense can remain in the thick of conference play. Plenty of obstacles lie ahead for Indiana, but on Thursday it showed exactly what kind of power it might hold in the Big Ten.


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