Subpar defense has been the shortcoming of an offensively rich Indiana team all season.
There the Hoosiers were again Saturday afternoon trailing Notre Dame by 16 in the second half of a Crossroads Classic matchup in Indianapolis completely whiffing at times on the defensive end. But coach Tom Crean switched to a zone and the Hoosiers responded with an inspired comeback to snatch their first quality win of the season 80-73 over a Notre Dame team that scored only one basket in the final six minutes.
It was the largest comeback for the Hoosiers during Crean's tenure as coach.
Junior forward Troy Williams was the catalyst for the Hoosiers with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, but a heated exchange between freshman center Thomas Bryant and coaches as well as point guard Yogi Ferrell might also have played a part in the Indiana comeback. But by the time the exchange happened during a timeout late in the second half, the rally was well underway.
A week of practices prior to Saturdays game to work on their deficient defense also likely played a part in the turn around. Whatever it was, the Hoosiers looked like a different and much more dangerous team in the final 10 minutes of the game than they have at most points thus far this season.
From the point at which they trailed by 16, the Hoosiers outscored Notre Dame 40-17.
Notre Dame started the second half making its first seven shots and was shooting 61 percent in the game when the first media timeout out of the second half rolled around with less than 16 minutes to play.
Williams began to find his game after halftime. He scored just two points in 12 minutes of playing time in the first half but scored 16 in the second half with much of it coming off his defense and in transition.
One of the best matchups was expected to come at point guard where Ferrell was pitted against Demetrius Jackson, two of the best players at the position in the nation. Ferrell struggled early and turned the ball over four times in the first half, but he settled down in the second half and limited himself to one turnover. Again, the improvement was a product of better defense from the Hoosiers as a whole, which produced easier possessions on offense.
Bonzie Colson scored 24 points to lead Notre Dame, but he cooled off dramatically late in the game and couldn't get his shot to fall. He made one of his final four attempts and also missed two free throws with 1 minute, 15 seconds remaining and the score tied at 73-73.
It was Indiana's final opportunity to secure a quality win in nonconference play and getting such victories in the Big Ten this season won't be as assured as they have been in the past because the conference doesn't appear as formidable after the top three teams in Michigain State, Maryland and Purdue.
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