Junior guard Maurice Creek led all players in both applause and points Thursday night, as his 12 points helped IU to an 86-57 victory against Indiana Wesleyan.
It didn’t start pretty for the preseason No. 1, but once Indiana took the lead against Indiana Wesleyan on Thursday night, the team rolled to victory.
The Wildcats jumped on the Hoosiers from the opening tip, claiming a 13-4 lead early. It took IU nearly 15 minutes of gametime to regain the lead. Junior forward Will Sheehey’s dunk with 6:03 left in the first half gave IU a 29-28 lead, and from then on, IU outscored the Wildcats 57-29, resulting in a 86-57 IU victory.
It was merely an exhibition game, with no stats or records counting toward the season totals, but it gave IU coach Tom Crean and his team quite a bit to think about.
Early on, a defense that ranked 10th in scoring allowed in the Big Ten last season looked suspect, as Indiana Wesleyan sharpshooting guard Aaron Martin and his teammates were able to get open shots and knock them down.
"They made some shots, and at the same time, we were just a little bit off," Crean said. "We really didn't start figuring out until in the second half that we really needed to get into them. Not in a fouling way, but we need to bring more pressure to the game."
Sheehey said the team's energy was lacking in the first 10 minutes of the game, but picked up to a good level in the final 30. The slow start isn't unfamiliar to IU, but Sheehey said it's something that needs to be worked on.
At times, even sophomore forward Cody Zeller struggled to guard Wildcat big men down low, but as the game moved forward, the Hoosiers found their stride. With effort and hustle coming off the bench in the form of players such as freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell and junior guard Maurice Creek, the tide turned for IU.
Creek was greeted by momentous applause when he entered, and earned more ovations with his performance on offense.
He made his first four shots, including a driving layup, a jump-stop midrange jumper from the elbow and a pair of three-pointers.
“I was really excited for Maurice," Crean said. "It was emotional watching the crowd react to him. It wasn’t surprising, because it’s Indiana.”
It was Creek's first game action since Jan. 15, 2011, and he realized how long it had been once he came out on the court.
“It felt like a long time,” Creek said after the game, laughing.
Creek finished with 12, which led the Hoosiers. Sheehey, Zeller and senior forward Christian Watford weren’t far behind, as they all totaled 11 points. Watford also established a presence on the glass, collecting six rebounds — four on offense.
Hollowell also made a statement on the glass and on the defensive end in general. As soon as he entered, he registered a rebound and a steal on back-to-back possessions. He finished with six rebounds, second only to junior guard Victor Oladipo’s seven.
True freshman Yogi Ferrell earned the start, and earned the position. He led all players with four assists, and he had many more effective passes that helped lead to buckets.
“You got to see what Yogi can do," Sheehey said. "He makes plays off the dribble and he plays good defense on the ball, too.”
Sheehey and his teammates will look to shed their identity as a team that scuffles at the opening of games.
“We weren’t a quick-starting team last year," Sheehey said, "and I think we’re just going to focus on it from here on out.”