The Indiana Hoosiers were Final Four dark horses entering the NCAA men's basketball tournament and proved with a dominant 99-74 win over the Chattanooga Mocs on Thursday that they are prepared to take care of business.
In a No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 seed matchup that had already seen two upsets in the first round (the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans and Yale Bulldogs), Indiana had arguably the most convincing win on Day 1 of the round of 64.
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The Hoosiers were as offensively efficient as they've been all year. They connected on 37 of 57 shots for a 64.9 percent mark from the field, well above the Mocs' 28-of-59 outing (47.5 percent).
The Hoosiers also tallied more than twice the amount of assists the Mocs had (23-10), with Yogi Ferrell leading the way with a career-high 10.
It was the first game of Ferrell’s accomplished career in which he has tallied 20 points and 10 assists, according to the CBS telecast. It was also his first career double-double, per Jeremy Price of the Bloomington Herald-Times, who noted how determined Ferrell was playing Thursday:
Ferrell’s family was on hand to see his heroics and caught up with CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, courtesy of March Madness TV:
Ferrell didn’t get going until the second half, but his teammates built momentum from the tipoff and held it throughout.
The Hoosiers went on a 13-2 run in a three-minute span early in the first half after capitalizing on a defensive rebound by Collin Hartman and two turnovers.
OG Anunoby had one of the game’s biggest plays, capping a 9-0 run with a steal and 360-degree dunk that forced Chattanooga to take its first timeout:
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The Mocs pulled to within three points five times before halftime, but the Hoosiers had an answer every time and took a 46-37 lead to the locker room.
They wouldn’t relinquish the lead over the rest of the way and nearly joined top overall seed Kansas as the only teams to exceed 100 points on the first day of the first round.
Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star noted midway through the second half that the Hoosiers would likely advance if they kept up their efficiency:
Even while holding a 60-43 lead with 15:34 remaining, Indiana head coach Tom Crean ensured his squad wouldn't let up, per Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:
During that timeout, Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star accurately forecast that the Mocs wouldn’t be able to match Indiana's tempo for the rest of the way:
Indiana comfortably cruised from there.
Five Hoosiers scored in double figures, including Ferrell, Anunoby (14 points), Thomas Bryant (13), Troy Williams (12) and Max Bielfeldt (10). The Hoosiers also won the battle in the paint, snagging 30 rebounds, compared to Chattanooga’s 24.
ESPN College BBall shared a telling statistic that proved how efficient the Hoosiers were:
Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports hinted that the 29-5 champions of the Southern Conference didn’t have a strong showing Thursday:
The Hoosiers earned only a No. 5 seed despite winning the Big Ten regular-season title and sitting at No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Las Vegas gave the Hoosiers the third-best odds among No. 5 seeds to win the national title at 50-1, per Odds Shark, behind Maryland and Purdue, which lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in double overtime Thursday.
Indiana will now eye Thursday's matchup between Kentucky and Stony Brook and face the winner Saturday. If the Wildcats win, it could be the most colossal matchup of the second round, featuring two of the most storied heavyweights in college hoops.
When asked which team he'd prefer playing in the second round during his postgame interview, Ferrell indicated that he’d like the chance to face Kentucky.
"That’s a tough one. I feel like playing Kentucky, they’re such a great team, it’d just be a great matchup to see who goes out and wins it," Ferrell told Wolfson via the CBS telecast. "The rivalry between [Kentucky and Indiana] in the past years have been great."
Jim Weber (formerly of Lost Lettermen) joked about how juicy a matchup that would be:
Following the game, a throng of reporters swarmed the Indiana locker room. It was so large that Indiana Basketball had to snap a panorama to capture the entire group:
The Southern Conference certainly isn’t the Big Ten, and Chattanooga’s only regular-season opponents this year that reached the NCAA tournament were No. 22 (AP Top 25 poll) Iowa State and Dayton.
But Mocs head coach Matt McCall said the Hoosiers were the best they’d faced all year—by a long shot, per Osterman:
His counterpart, Crean, rooted his Hoosiers’ success in their continued improvements thorughout the game, per Indiana On BTN:
The Hoosiers have never gone further than the Sweet 16 in Crean’s first seven seasons, but they could be destined for a lengthy run if they continue playing the way they did on Thursday.
Check out Bleacher Report's live updating bracket to track your picks along the road to the Final Four.