After Indiana’s come-from-behind road win at Illinois on Sunday, the Hoosiers drove back to Bloomington on their team bus. Indiana coach Tom Crean stayed late in Cook Hall that night and he was working on the team’s gameplan for Thursday’s game against No. 13 Maryland when he heard basketballs bouncing on the facility’s practice court. “There’s Yogi (Ferrell) shooting on the shooting gun late at night,” Crean said.
Despite Indiana’s victory in Champaign, Ill., Ferrell was 1-of-9 from the field for just seven points in the win. It marked the first time that he had been held to single digits in points scored in back-to-back games since Indiana’s NCAA Tournament games in the round of 32 and Sweet Sixteen in 2013.
“That’s hunger level,” Crean said of Ferrell’s quick return to the gym after Indiana’s bus ride home.
Ferrell was back in Cook Hall Monday morning even though the team didn’t have a practice. Then he came back that afternoon to shoot some more. The junior stayed late after Indiana’s practice on Wednesday to work on his shooting stroke after practice.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect and Ferrell’s extra shooting sessions paid off as he nearly achieved perfection from the field in the Hoosiers’ 89-70 win against No. 13 Maryland. He scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including seven 3-pointers.
Ferrell’s scoring outburst was refreshing for Indiana after his five-game shooting drought in which he was 13-of-48 (27 percent) from the field to start Big Ten play. His performance Thursday was even more impressive because, on defense, he defended fellow Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list selectee Melo Trimble, Maryland’s freshman sensation.
Indiana’s junior point guard held Trimble to 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, reminiscent of his performance in Indiana’s double-digit home win against No. 10 Michigan last season when he scored 27 points and held future NBA lottery pick Nik Stauskas in check with his tenacious defense.
Ferrell said after making a few shots against Maryland, the floodgates opened for him.
“The rim kind of just opens up a little bit more and it just gets easier to get the basketball in the hoop, basically,” he said. “I was just trying to take what the defense gave me and I was just letting it go and it was all up to the ball from there.”
Ferrell’s shooting wasn’t just accurate, it was also timely. Four of his 3-point field goals were the first made basket in response to a Maryland 3-pointer.
Each time the Terrapins attempted to mount a scoring run, Ferrell and his teammates were there to thwart any potential momentum shift.
“We came down and we got good shots, we kept moving the ball and we got jumpers,” Crean said, “but it was after the ball had been reversed, driven, the way that we have to play.”
Indiana has now made 38 3-point field goals in its past three games and the team’s hot shooting couldn’t have come at a better time when the Hoosiers are trying to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.
James Blackmon Jr. said he could sense Indiana’s 3-point barrage approaching.
“I think we saw it coming, guys have just been staying in the gym,” he said. “I don’t think our shot is something we’re going to be worried about because we know we’re going to get it going and I think that we’ve just been competing in practice with shooting drills and all that and guys like Yogi got it going tonight.”
While Ferrell’s points have decreased and assists have spiked compared to last season — indicating his transition to more of a facilitating role in 2014-15 — he fuels Indiana’s offensive firepower, regardless of whether he’s scoring or setting up his teammates in positions where they can be successful.
“That’s leadership,” Crean said. “That’s what we have to continue to get because Yogi’s playing so well for us, but he wanted to play better. Now we have to keep that attitude, if we keep that kind of hunger and we keep that kind of desire, then we’re going to keep improving and that’s the key.”