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Injury tests resolve of Hoosiers

– Indiana players and coaches gathered around Austin Etherington. The sophomore reserve forward had just been placed on a stretcher after suffering a left knee injury late in the first half of Saturday’s game against Central Connecticut State.

Although it was tough, the No. 1 Hoosiers regained their focus after losing a teammate and defeated the Blue Devils 100-69 in front of 17,472 fans at Assembly Hall.

“There’s no question when you have a close-knit team, and I mean close-knit – going through the recruiting process together, the day-to-day interactions – it affected everybody. And I’m proud of the way they bounced back,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.

Etherington suffered the injury while defending near the basket with 2:28 left in the first half. The latest update was he was being evaluated.

“It’s tough. There’s no preparing for that,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “We just had to get back at it. That’s tough.”

Crean said the injury left his team “really bothered.”

“It wasn’t as much about the win. I know they were really concerned about their friend,” he said. “They are all close friends, and that’s one of the reasons that we are having the success we have had. It was really important that they continued to play, and they did. And I thought we closed the game really well.”

Zeller had 19 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.

“We worked on a lot of little things in practice, posting up lower,” Zeller said. “We worked hard and a lot of little things that we worked were good.”

He was one of five Hoosiers (9-0) to reach double figures in scoring. Senior forward Christian Watford led the way with 21 points.

“I got a couple of easy buckets early on. My teammates did a great job of finding me,” Watford said.

Junior guard Victor Oladipo had a couple of highlight-reel dunks and finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds. Junior forward Will Sheehey had 12 points and senior guard Jordan Hulls added 10.

The Hoosiers focused on shutting down Central Connecticut guard Kyle Vinales. And they did so, mostly with Sheehey and Oladipo taking turns guarding him. Vinales finished with seven points on 3-of-15 shooting. The 6-foot-1 guard entered the game as the leading scorer in the country, averaging 25.9 points per game.

“It was a full team effort,” Oladipo said. “Will was on him. Remy (Abell) was on him. … We all did a pretty good job on him.”

Matt Hunter more than picked up the scoring for the Blue Devils (4-4). He scored 40 points, tying a record for most points by an opponent in a game at Assembly Hall. Michigan State’s Shawn Respert (1995) and Terry Furlow (1976) also had 40.

Hunter scored 26 of the 40 in the second half. But it wasn’t nearly enough. IU used a 31-6 run in the first half to put the game out of reach, with the score going from 13-12 to 44-18.

“They had a great week of preparation,” Crean said. “They came in, were absolutely locked in and our play showed it. They played at a very high level.”

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