BLOOMINGTON – Top-ranked Indiana opened its basketball season and, guess what -- Tom Crean got a raise as part of a new coaching contract that has him in Bloomington for two more years, to 2020.
Amazing what happens when you make the Sweet 16.
Crean now makes $3.16 million a year, up from the $2.52 million he was making.
Meanwhile, freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell showed the substance to his hype. In his college debut Friday night, he had 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Senior forward Christian Watford showed he meant business about better rebounding, grabbing a career-high 15 along with scoring 15 points while wearing No. 32 in honor of injured teammate Derek Elston. Add his 10 defensive deflections and it was, Crean said, a triple double.
Still, Watford said he's not keeping the number. Crean said he's not so sure.
Hold that thought.
Sophomore forward Cody Zeller showed the substance to his All-America hype with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 27 minutes.
Oh, yes. The Hoosiers beat Bryant 97-54 in front of a sell-out crowd that included heralded Class of 2013 recruit Noah Vonleh, the nation's No. 7 player.
Let's start with the 6-9 Watford, who has never averaged more than 6.0 rebounds in a season. NBA scouts told him last spring if he wants to make it in the league, he has to rebound better.
“He knows that's an objective that has to show up,” Crean said. “The next level wants to see it. We need it at a high level. That's why after every practice, he has to be the leading rebounder.”
Watford said he gets it.
“I'm especially trying to get on the offensive glass,” he said. “I want to be more aggressive there. I try to choose my spots.”
As far as wearing Elston's number, Watford said he did it because “I wanted to give a tribute to Derek. He's been with us from the beginning. He's one of us.”
Elston is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to return next month. Watford, who usually wears No. 2, had earlier joked that if he had a good game, he might keep the number.
“I won't keep it,” he said. “Coach Crean might want me to, but Derek can keep it.”
Crean jokingly suggested all options remain open.
“I do think Derek is in there sorting through jersey numbers because I'm not sure we're going to give No. 32 back to him. Christian had a career high. He might just have to keep it, though it is a little tight on him.”
As for Ferrell, he only had two turnovers, half of what he had in last week's exhibition win over Indiana Wesleyan.
“You can't take for granted the numbers he had, the presence he had,” Crean said.
“He does not like making mistakes. It's important we get to the point where he's not making many, and when he does, move on.”
Added Ferrell: “It felt great, distributing the ball to those guys, watching them score.
"I was pretty confident. I didn't have any nerves. I did for the exhibition.
“We know what the coaches expect from us. I thought we delivered.”
All signs pointed to a blowout. Bryant was 2-28 last year and picked to finish near the bottom of the Northeast Conference. IU was ranked No. 1 and a 33.5-point favorite.
Crean made it clear before the game that mercy wasn't an option. His approach was as ruthless as it was necessary given the season prospects.
“We're not experimenting,” he said. “We're trying to win, and we're trying to win big. We're not going out there to feel our way through. We're going to play well and hard the entire 40 minutes. We'll try to dictate as much of the game as we can.”
Dictating got off to the usual slow start. Bryant led 15-14 after nine minutes. Then the Hoosiers began rolling. By halftime they led 48-28. The main catalysts were Zeller (12 points), Ferrell (10 points, five assists) and Watford (seven rebounds).
The only glitch was nine turnovers to match their nine assists.
The second half was a showcase of Hoosier firepower. Thirteen Hoosiers played and nine scored at least five points. However, the Hoosiers did have 17 turnovers against 16 assists.
IU plays Monday night against North Dakota State in the opening of the Progressive Legends Classic.