By Conor Hockett
Jordan Hulls called for the ball screen but had no intention of using it.
Standing on the right wing late in the first half, IU’s senior guard head-faked toward the pick before rising up for a 3-pointer that showed the confidence and swagger Jauwan Scaife said he respects about Big Ten players.
The Muncie native could only watch, however, as Hulls and the rest of the Hoosiers hot-shooting led to a 29-6 run before halftime that fueled No. 1 IU’s 101-53 win at Assembly Hall on Sunday.
“We had some opportunities out there to keep the game near in the first half if we would have stuck to the game plan for the duration of the game,” Scaife said. “Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been a win, maybe it would have; we don’t know. But at least we would have walked out with our heads held even higher to a certain extent.”
While negativity didn’t ooze out of the Cardinals on the floor per se, only so much could be said after the worst loss in Billy Taylor’s tenure at Ball State.
The 101 points scored by IU was the most given up under him in his five years at the helm, but Taylor said the struggles on defense were more about Ball State’s ineffectiveness scoring the ball.
“I thought a lot of it was our bad offense,” Taylor said. “We were turning the basketball over. We did get some good shots, but our inability to get back in transition [hurt us]. Before their big run, the score was 21-13. The game had a pretty good tempo to it, and I thought we were playing pretty well.”
For much of the game, the Cardinals good play was limited to put backs and some timely post moves by junior Majok Majok.
The junior college transfer got one-on-one coverage from Preseason All-American Cody Zeller and senior forward Christian Watford most of the night and took advantage. Quick spins baseline and an abundance of countermoves allowed Majok to score a team-high 18 points.
“They [Watford and Zeller] are good players and physical,” Majok said. “I just tried to go right at them. I felt like I was able to play with them. I just tried my best to keep my team in the game as much as I can.”
Even with Majok’s post presence, the Hoosiers 20 first-half points in the paint was one more than the Cardinals total output entering halftime.
Hulls and IU’s junior forward Will Sheehey combined for 18 of the 29 points scored during the run, shooting 10-of-11 from the field.
“Once you get into a rhythm like that [of Hulls and Sheehey], you can shoot shots like those because it feels good every time,” Scaife said. “I don’t think we got into that rhythm on a consistent basis. If we did get caught up in that [their scoring], we shouldn’t have because that’s something that goes with the flow of the game.”
Ball State’s dribble-drive offense lacked a flow for the second consecutive game. The team scored only two more points than in its 20-point loss to Indiana State on Tuesday.
A lack of movement forced guards to go one-on-one late in the clock, and they didn’t get high-quality shots. The Cardinals even resorted to running baseline screen sets similar to last season’s offense to try and get things going.
“We had a lot of wasted possessions in the first half where we just had poor communication,” Taylor said. “If we can get everyone on the same page when we run our offense, than we get good opportunities.”
Before Sunday’s game Taylor talked about how good of an opportunity playing the No. 1 team in the nation was. Even after the blowout loss, Taylor said he didn’t regret scheduling such a tough game.
“It’s still a great opportunity for us,” Taylor said. “Not many players get that chance to play the No. 1 team in the country. As much as this hurts and as bad as we feel — we can still learn from it. There is valuable film and valuable experiences our guys got.”