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Posted on Thu. Aug. 14, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Williams emerging as Indiana difference maker

Hoosiers finish Canada trip with 4-1 record

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Troy Williams as difference maker. It could happen.

If it does, if the Indiana sophomore forward's Canada performance is indicative of what is to come when the games count, if he can play against elite college competition as he did against the mostly over-matched talent he faced in the last week, he could be a catalyst for a Hoosier team that needs as many as it can get.

Consider Williams' effort in Wednesday's Canada trip-ending victory over the University of Quebec at Montreal. He totaled 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. That followed Tuesday's 18-point, nine-rebound effort against McGill. He had 27 points against Ottawa, the only team to beat Indiana in its five games. He added 21 points against Laval.

Even in the one game he wasn't an offensive factor, in the win over Carleton, the 6-7 Williams had six rebounds, four assists and one block to go with his five points.

Again, none of this came against an opponent that would remind anyone of, say, Michigan State. Still, it showed potential. Williams seems to understand he remains a work in progress.

“I'm going to work on more defense and more pick-and-roll situations. I see that now I am in a lot of pick-and-roll situations. It has helped out a lot and I am making good decisions out of it, but I still want to work on that more."

Last season, Williams sometimes played out of control, especially early on. He rushed when he should have waited, attacked when he should have passed. The growing pains were often excruciating, the turnovers seemingly never ending, but improvement followed.

Now he's bigger, stronger and more in tune with what coach Tom Crean wants and what the game gives.

Oh, yes. He's also healthier.

“Last year I had a hand injury -- I always had my left hand bandaged. Now that it is healed, it feels better. I have always been comfortable with the ball, I just couldn't use both hands last year. Now that I have both back, it is much easier for me to handle the ball again.”

Williams has fully bought into strength coach Je'Ney Jackson's program, and the payoff is evident.

“I have seen that help out a lot after I took it more seriously. Now I can see the difference. I'm not getting pushed around as much and I am finishing more plays.”

The Canada trip was big for a young team that needs as much developmental time as possible. Team chemistry, awareness and attention to detail are crucial if the Hoosiers are to return to national relevance after last season's 17-15 disappointment.

“We are more together off the court than we are on the court now. Last year's team maybe wasn't always on the same page, but now we are all together and thinking the same way. That's how it is on the court. We are not afraid to share anything with each other and we have accountability for what we do.”

Wednesday's accountability included freshman guard James Blackmon totaling 20 points and four assists. Fellow freshman guard Robert Johnson was 4-for-4 from three-point range and totaled 17 points. Point guard Yogi Ferrell had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Freshman forward Max Hoetzel had 12 points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Stanford Robinson was 5-for-5 from the field for 10 points. Forward Devin Davis had 10 rebounds, the second time on the trip he reached double figures in rebounding.

The one big negative -- IU had 17 turnovers. That gave it 40 in the last two games. That was a major problem last season. The Hoosiers could get away with sloppy play in Canada. They won't during the season.

But then, nobody expected March execution in August. The benefits – and the potential – are there, Davis said.

“This gave our team a lot more team chemistry, on and off the court, because we got to spend a lot of time together. On the court, we were able to feel each other out, see what each other likes to do and find out where we are on the floor.”

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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