DAYTON, Ohio — Indiana spent the season getting banged, bruised and battered in the Big Ten
On Friday, the Hoosiers got to pick on one of the NCAA tournament’s little guys.
Freshman Yogi Ferrell scored 14 points in the first six minutes as top-seeded Indiana slam dunked its way to an 83-62 win over James Madison in the second round of the East Regional.
Not taking any chances with a No. 16 seed, the Hoosiers (28-6) started fast and built a 33-point lead in the second half over the Dukes (21-15) and opened the tourney with a statement they intend to be around for a while.
“I’ve been waiting for this all week,” Ferrell said. ” A lot of us are jacked up to get out here, play against some different competition.”
Looking every bit like a team capable of cutting down the nets in Atlanta next month, Indiana will play Temple in the second round on Sunday.
Ferrell finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Cody Zeller had four dunks for Indiana.
Freshman Andre Nation scored 24 and Charles Cooke 18 for James Madison, which made the score somewhat respectable in the final minutes.
Of the many upsets in NCAA tournament, there still hasn’t been a No. 16 over a No. 1. And any thoughts James Madison, which beat LIU Brooklyn in a First Four game to get here, had of making history were over shortly after player introductions.
Indiana wasn’t fooling around.
The Hoosiers opened a 23-point lead in the first half, when one of the Big Ten’s behemoths unleashed their fury on offense and clamped down on a James Madison team that never experienced anything like Indiana’s man-to-man pressure this season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
After falling behind by 20, the Dukes got within 34-20 when Nation made two straight 3-pointers.
The spurt only seemed to make the Hoosiers mad and they closed the first half with a 9-2 run to take a 43-22 lead at halftime.
As he headed to the locker room, James Madison coach Matt Brady straightened his tie and scratched his head. Back in the staging area inside Dayton Arena even the Dukes’ cheerleaders huddled to try and figure out what they could do better after halftime.
It was too late.
Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, seniors who helped coach Tom Cream rebuild an Indiana program in shambles five years ago, hit 3-pointers and Zeller zoomed down the lane for a dunk as Indiana opened the second half with a 13-4 run.
The Hoosiers barely let up, and later in the half, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey, who had 15 points, scored back-to-back baskets so quickly that the p.a. announcer said their names without taking a breath.
It was breathtaking, all right.
Indiana entered the tournament with a No. 1 seed for just the third time and saddled with higher expectations than the Hoosiers have had to deal with in years.
“Banner Up” has been the war cry of Indiana fans this season, a not-so-subtle dig at rival Purude’s “Boiler Up” cheer but also a reference to hanging a sixth NCAA title banner inside Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers believe they can, and after overcoming a tough late-season loss at home on senior night against Ohio State, Indiana showed some the resolve and toughness of a champ by winning at Michigan in the regular-season finale to win their first outright Big Ten title since 1993.
They’ve got loftier goals this March, and Oladipo said Thursday that anything short of a Final Four appearance would be a disappointment.
Indiana’s size advantage inside figured to be a problem for James Madison, and that was the case from the very first possession.
The 7-foot Zeller ran down a loose ball in the corner and grabbed a rebound as the Hoosiers had the ball for nearly a minute before Ferrell scored on a layup.
The lightning-quick 6-footer scored on two more drives and then hit a 3-pointer to make it Yogi Ferrell 9, The Fourth U.S. President 0.
Brady called his first timeout, but there wasn’t much he could say to his team other than to hang in there.
Zeller then threw down a vicious dunk, Ferrell sped through the Dukes’ defense for two more easy layups, and when Zeller powered in for another monster jam to sway the backboard, James Madison’s players, pep band and noisy purple-clad fans were all shaking.
Oladipo drove for a dunk and after dropping a 3-pointer celebrated with a spinning chest bump with Hulls in front of Indiana’s bench.
At that point, it was 29-10 and Temple was already in Indiana’s crosshairs.