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BLOOMINGTON – Jordan Hulls is hot.
Check that. His shooting is hot. And if you follow top-ranked Indiana, you know what that means.
Cook Hall isn't empty.
“I would say he has worn that swipe card out coming into Cook Hall,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said about the Hoosiers' state-of-the-art practice facility. “He does things behind the scenes you see on game night. He works every day. It might be two or three times a day.
“That's what got the culture going. It's rewarding to see him play at that level.”
Hulls' Sunday night reward was 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from three-point range in the 101-53 win over Ball State. That was good for his second straight 17-point game.
In his last three games, he's 17-for-27 from the field and 10-for-18 from three-point range. He's averaged 16.0 points in that stretch, 13.0 for the season.
In other words, he seems primed for Tuesday night's Assembly Hall showdown against No. 9 North Carolina (5-1) in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
“I put a lot of time in my shooting,” Hulls said. “I like to shoot well every time. When I put in all the time, it should feel good.”
Hulls didn't take a shot in the first 15 minutes while setting up his teammates, then took charge. He was 5-for-5 to end the first half while adding three assists and three rebounds.
“I was waiting to get in the flow,” he said. “I wasn't trying to force anything. We were getting it inside to Cody (Zeller) and Christian (Watford). I let it come to me.”
When it came to him, he delivered.
“I was trying to be more aggressive and do whatever the team needs me to do.”
Hulls' shooting aggressiveness was matched by swingman Will Sheehey, who came off the bench for a season-high 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting. That made up for his 4-for-10 shooting for a total of eight points in last week's two games in Brooklyn as part of the Legends Classic.
“I took open shots and my teammates found me,” he said.
Buckley had a deeper perspective.
“It starts with our guys when they feel they haven't played well. He probably didn't shoot it as well as he'd have liked in Brooklyn. He got in the gym and worked. He did all the things you have to do to get better. The only thing we know is work. He did, and you got a chance to see the results tonight.
"I don't think it was a surprise. That's how he plays. He got a little off track offensively in Brooklyn. He worked his way out of it.”
The Hoosiers (6-0) worked their way out of a lot of things against out-matched Ball State (2-2). They shot 60.3 percent from the field, had five players score in double figures, forced 18 turnovers and held the Cardinals to 30.9 percent shooting.
“We got key contributions from a lot of guys,” Buckley said. “We played Indiana basketball. We want to sustain that.”
IU's intensity didn't drop off despite the lopsided score. It won the first half 50-19 and the second 51-34.
“In order to be a championship-caliber team, that's the way you have to play it,” Buckley said. “You can't take any possessions off. That's what we did. Guys coming in off the bench, that's their time to play meaningful minutes. That's what we're about. When you don't, you come out.”
All that was too much for Ball State
"Indiana has such a deep team," coach Billy Taylor said. "They have so many guys who can hurt you. They're No. 1 for a reason."
IU had its typical slow start. It led just 10-8 after six minutes. Sheehey provided an off-the-bench spark with five straight points as the Hoosiers pushed ahead 21-10.
And then the Hoosiers really took charge. Maurice Creek and Hulls didn't miss a shot. Sheehey missed one, a three-pointer. When the half was over, IU led 50-19, shooting 64.7 percent from the field to Ball State's 20.0.
IU didn't let up in the second half and cruised to its biggest scoring output of the season. As a reward for breaking 100 points, the first 100 fans who brought a valid game ticket to Qdoba in Bloomington got free food.
“Our defensive pressure got better,” Hulls said. “We forced some turnovers. That's when we're at our best, when we're running transition. We get buckets that way.”