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COLUMN: Yogi the scorer

Yogi Ferrell is averaging 19.5 points per game through four games, and has scored a total of 50 in his past two games.

A handful of moments stand out from Yogi Ferrell’s freshman season as significant signs that Ferrell was ready to be an upper-level Big Ten point guard.

There was the shot to send IU to overtime against Butler. There was the overtime period against Georgetown when he scored seven points to seal the win for IU. There was the time he dribbled past Trey Burke and found Cody Zeller on the baseline in Ann Arbor to set up the game-winning basket in the game that clinched the Big Ten outright championship.

Early on in his sophomore campaign, however, those moments are already becoming more and more frequent. Now, instead of plays and stretches of time that illustrate his growth, Ferrell is putting together full games displaying improvement.

The past two games have been, in the words of IU head coach Tom Crean, the two best of Ferrell’s career. They have been the two highest-scoring performances of Ferrell’s IU career, one for 26 points and the other for 24. While Crean could have pointed out that Ferrell is playing well by illustrating small specifics and statistics, Crean put it simply: the reason he thinks these two games have been Ferrell’s best is simply the fact that Ferrell has been able to repeat his performance and take what he did well in one game and apply it to the next.

At some point last week, something clicked for Ferrell, and perhaps it even came in the near-loss to LIU-Brooklyn last Tuesday.

During the win, the offense went stagnant at times. During one instance, the Hoosiers harmlessly tossed the ball around the perimeter and hardly were even looking into the paint.

As Ferrell took the ball near the top of the key, again standing and dribbling, Crean stepped onto the court and could be heard from the opposite side of the court yelling to his point guard.

“Get going!” Crean yelled.

Ferrell is starting to enter a phase in his career where he is quicker to make decisions without Tom Crean having to remind him.

Ferrell obliged, driving hard into the lane, where he drew a foul. Crean calmly clapped. This moment is not the one that revealed Ferrell’s newfound offensive prowess, but it can be found in all the moments that followed it where Crean didn’t have to yell to Ferrell.

Ferrell’s newly revealed nose for scoring appeared against Samford, when he used each ball screen to his advantage. As defenders slipped under screens from IU teammates such as Noah Vonleh, Ferrell didn’t hesitate for a second to pick up his dribble, launch upward and fire away toward the basket. If defenders stayed with him or otherwise didn’t go under the screens, Ferrell showed an equal sense of purpose in taking the ball inside.

His approach led to career highs in points, field goals and 3-point field goals. And to feed Crean’s excitement, Ferrell kept at it in IU’s win Sunday against Stony Brook, without any noticeable prompting. He scored 24 more points to lead all scorers.

Crean said Ferrell’s approach from play to play helps him string together back-to-back big games.

“He’s doing a great job of figuring out what we have to do to win that possession,” Crean said. “It doesn’t mean we’re always going to win it, but to win that possession, to get the best shot, the best movement inside of that possession and all of a sudden, he’s got 50 points in two days.”

It’s an approach of a mature player who is ready to take charge of an offense that needs a player to take charge. A team’s point guard is the obvious choice for this role, and Ferrell is embracing it without many experienced weapons around him.

He is also showing the same ability to facilitate that he did as a freshman. Against Samford, Ferrell didn’t come alive in terms of scoring until after halftime. During the first half, he was primarily running the offense as opposed to putting himself in the featured role. He can turn a switch seemingly from possession to possession in terms of his main goal on offense, either to create a shot for a teammate or create a shot for himself.

When Indiana students chanted “Yogi Ferrell” over and over during Ferrell’s visits during the 2011 season, this is the Ferrell for whom they were cheering. This is the Ferrell IU coaches recruited.

This is the Ferrell that can facilitate one minute and hit a pull-up three-pointer the next. This is the new Yogi Ferrell, and one who can score as easily as he can create for others. This is the Yogi Ferrell who can turn an inexperienced team of athletes into a juggernaut on offense with him at the helm.

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