BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For how much Yogi Ferrell had the ball in his hands Tuesday night, his first half stats seemed rather paltry. Just two buckets on a team-high nine shots amounted to six points at the break.
That didn’t matter, though, because what Ferrell did when he touched the ball in the second half became the difference between Indiana (12-5, 2-2) and Wisconsin (16-1, 3-1) as well as the difference between the Badgers and their once-undefeated season as the Hoosiers triumphed 75-72.
The Wisconsin lead extended to 10 with 13:28 remaining. Ferrell had quieted for the time being, seated on the Indiana bench. His teammates drew the difference to four before the curtains to the Yogi Ferrell Show opened.
Reentering the game, Ferrell had the ball in his hands again, jockeying his way to the free throw line. With Jackson on his back and UW center Frank Kaminsky in his way, he rose up for his 17th shot attempt of the game, cockeyed to the side by the fouling Jackson.
The one-handed prayer banked in, bringing Assembly Hall to its feet and the Hoosiers within two. His missed a free throw seconds later was tipped in by Indiana center Noah Vonleh, tying the game for the first time in more than 20 minutes.
But that wasn’t enough for Ferrell, the sophomore that scored 30 in a disappointing losing effort to Illinois just a few weeks ago. Indiana’s leading scorer continued to torment the Wisconsin defense.
A minute-and-a-half later, his jumper gave the Hoosiers a two-point lead. Another minute went by and his assist to Hoosiers forward Will Sheehey earned that lead again. Another minute passed and his half-court alley-oop assist to forward Austin Etherington extended that lead to four with just more than six minutes remaining.
“It was like Jordan Taylor for us; that was the kind of things he did,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said, likening Ferrell to the 2011 second team All-American. “If a guy steps up and does a lot of that, you’ve got to find a way to stop it.”
Ferrell had triggered three-point attempts throughout the night, many times catching and shooting on the run, off the dribble or flanked by screens. All seven tries had clanked off the rim.
Utilizing screens and a quick crossover, Ferrell consistently forced his way into the lane throughout the game. The Hoosiers would have grabbed the lead earlier if Ferrell had consistently finished those drives with layups.
Nonetheless, he continued to play facilitator on offense, even if his tries beyond the arc refused to fall. With just less than three minutes to play and the game deadlocked at 65, Ferrell had the ball in his hands once again.
At the top of the key, Ferrell pump faked and jabbed at Jackson. The UW guard stumbled back a step; just enough for Ferrell to fire his eighth attempt, the only one he would make all evening. Assembly Hall was never louder Tuesday night.
Ferrell had earned the Hoosiers a lead once again. This one they would never surrender.
“I felt like I was open and pulled it,” Ferrell said. “I felt like most of my threes kind of felt good, just weren’t going in. So if I had to make one three, I was glad it was that last one.”
Ferrell topped all scorers with 25 on the night, 13 of them coming in the final 10 minutes of action. His 24 shots were also a game-high, but having the ball in his hands as much as he did, his zero turnovers and four assists hide in the box score as a telling stat to his offensive efficiency.
“He’s so good at drawing fouls,” Jackson said. “That’s something we have to make adjustments to. Starting with me, I have to get better at it and we have to adjust according to how the game is begin called.”
The Wisconsin guard had played against Ferrell in past AAU basketball tournaments, growing up in the same region, always one year older than the Hoosier. And while his team-high 21 points boosted the Badgers throughout the second half, the Wisconsin junior known for hitting clutch shots accurately evaluated Ferrell’s night.
“He hit big shots when it counted,” Jackson said. “And that’s all that matters.”