Cody Zeller's Career Night Leads Indiana in Rout over Savannah State

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 20, 2011

Cody Zeller backed his homecoming performance in the win over Evansville on Wednesday night with a career night in front of an announced crowd of over 16,000 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington on Saturday night.

Zeller led Indiana with a career-high 23 points over Savannah State in the 94-65 win to improve to 4-0 on the year.

Zeller was 6/7 from the field and 11/13 from the charity stripe.

Zeller was one of four Hoosiers to reach double figures. Junior Christian Watford showed his vast improvement from last year in scoring 19 points tonight.

Watford was the leading scorer last year, but at times looked like he didn't want to be out on the court. He would shy away from contact and live in the corner. Many times, he forced shots and looked lost playing power forward. Tonight, he showed why he could be an All-Big Ten selection.

Watford scored in ways that showed me he's ready to be a legit basketball player. He scored in the lane, drove to the basket and cleaned up the offensive boards.

Watford was 6/7 from the field including 2/2 from three-point land. Watford also was a perfect 5/5 from the free-throw line.

If he continues to play like this, Indiana will be a tough out.

It took nearly 10 minutes for someone other than Watford or Zeller to score for Indiana tonight, but when they did, they scored huge.

Will Sheehey joined the double-digit scoring party off the bench. Sheehey scored nine of his 15 points from the foul line and was 3/7 from the field.

Verdell Jones III was the other Hoosier to score in double digits. He scored 11 points to go along with his four rebounds and three assists.

Derek Elston showed tonight that he too has improved off the bench and is earning his playing time. Elston showed a great spark in the first half with nailing a three at the buzzer to give Indiana a 15-point lead at the half. Elston finished the game with nine points, and was 4/6 from the field.

The Hoosiers shot over 50 percent for the fourth straight game, shooting 57.1 percent tonight. The defense held the Tigers of Savannah State to only 44 percent.

Preston Blackmon led Savannah State (1-3) with 11 points.

The key stat in this win though was the free-throw shooting.

The officials were quick on the whistle in calling a combined 53 fouls. Indiana capitalized in hitting 35 of its 47 foul shots. That's the most free throws made in the Tom Crean era.

The 35 free throws made was also more than Savannah State attempted for the game.

Savannah State was 17 for 24 from the line in the loss.

The Tigers were a good test for the Hoosiers entering a tough Big Ten schedule next month. Their offense was truly dribble-drive-based and they rarely ran plays. The uptempo 3-man weave offense wreaked some havoc on the Hoosiers defense as they struggled at times to stay in front of the ball. This caused some foul troubles for the Hoosiers.

At one point, IU had to run a 2-3 zone and force Savannah State to shoot threes to limit their dribble penetration.

Overall, head coach Tom Crean showed why he's a genius and put his players in position to win.

He's truly a perfect fit for this Hoosiers team and has them heading in the right direction. The four wins this season have all been by 20-plus points. This is the first time since the 1998-1999 season that the Hoosiers have put together this impressive of a four-game streak. It's also the sixth time in the storied history of Hoosiers basketball.

They can tie the record on Monday against Gardner-Webb at 6:30 P.M. in Assembly Hall. You can catch the game live on Big Ten Network.


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