Indiana's Addition of Cody Zeller Never More Prevalent Than in 69-58 Win

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIDecember 17, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 04:  Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers walk down the court during the game against the Stetson Hatters at Assembly Hall on December 4, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana.  Indiana won 84-50.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A win is a win no matter how ugly the game is. That's how Indiana needs to look at this contest today.

After winning their last game on a last second shot against former No. 1 Kentucky 73-72, the Hoosiers failed to ever get that same energy level this afternoon against Notre Dame in the second game of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers (10-0) shot just 42 percent, but pulled out an ugly 69-58 win against in-state rival Notre Dame (7-5).

The addition of freshman and 2011 Indiana Mr. Basketball Cody Zeller showed why Indiana improved to 10-0, the best since the 1989-1990 season. If this were the previous three seasons without Zeller, Indiana probably would have lost this game.

Zeller finished with a game high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting this afternoon. The rest of the Hoosiers struggled to find the basket in going 16-for-43 combined.

Notre Dame's defenders showed no real threat to stop Zeller, and he did basically whatever he wanted to do in the post.

To really see how important Zeller is to the Hoosiers, look no further than the first half of this game. Both teams couldn't throw the ball in the ocean, but Zeller led the Hoosiers through the bad half.

Zeller was 6-for-10 from the field in the half, while the rest of the Hoosiers were a combined 4-for-20. The Hoosiers came into the game ranked top-five in the nation in three-point field goals, but they were a measly 0-for-3 in the half as well.

The help of Zeller, and the poor execution of Notre Dame led to the Hoosiers earning this win.

Notre Dame is without leading scorer Tim Abromaitis for the season, and they showed they needed him to score. The Irish jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first seven minutes of the game, but failed to hit a field goal in the last 14:33 of the first half, and only scored a combined five points in that span.

Notre Dame closed the half 0-for-14 from the field during the last 14:33.

The Irish jumped out of the gate on the quick start all due to 6'6" sophomore Alex Dragicevich's three straight three-point shots going down.

It took Indiana 3:15 seconds in the game to finally light up the scoreboard when Zeller scored on an and-one in the post.

The Hoosiers continued to struggle going 2-for-10 in the first five minutes and faced their biggest deficit of the season.

The previous year, the Hoosiers would have quit with their heads down, and conceded that they would have lost.

Not this team.

The Hoosiers closed the gap to one with 8:40 left, and took their first lead of the game with 6:10 left of the first half.

Indiana never looked back from there.

Fellow freshman Remy Abell hit a last second shot to end the first half on a rare rebound from Derek Elston's near midcourt heave with six seconds left. Indiana took the 26-20 lead at half, and the game was never a threat after that.

The Hoosiers opened the second half with sophomore Victor Oladipo scoring two of his 16 points on a runner on the first offensive possession.

Notre Dame then scored two possessions later on with a Jack Cooley layup to end the 16:06 drought without a field goal to close the gap to six.

The Irish fought hard the rest of the way, but never could close the gap to one possession. The Hoosiers showed their talent, and improved to keep the undefeated season going.

The Irish shot 16-for-42 from the field, while the Hoosiers were 24-for-57. That was the determining factor in this contest.

The Irish were led in scoring by sophomore Eric Atkins with 15 points.

Indiana ended up with four guys scoring in double figures today.

Last weeks hero Christian Watford scored 10 points, but it took him 38 minutes to do so.

Junior Jordan Hulls added 12 points of his own including extending his free throw streak without a miss to 56 dating back to last season.

The Hoosiers did get a spark off the bench from sophomore Will Sheehey. He only scored two points, but he contributed a game high nine rebounds. That was huge for the Hoosiers.

Indiana will have a short turnaround after this win. The Hoosiers host Howard (3-8) at 6:30 P.M. in Assembly Hall on Monday night.