By JOHN BAUERNFEIND | IDS
POSTED AT 11:20 PM ON DEC. 15, 2013 (UPDATED AT 01:05 AM ON DEC. 16, 2013)
INDIANAPOLIS — Trailing 35-22 with 6 minutes and 20 seconds to play in the first half, the IU men’s basketball team outscored Notre Dame 20-12 to go into halftime down 47-42. Senior forward Will Sheehey ignited the run, scoring seven points in that time.
Sheehey scored a team-high 22 points in IU’s 79-72 loss to Notre Dame, matching his career high. Sixteen of those points came in the first half, which saw Sheehey go 7-for-10 from the field. Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant had a game-high 23 points.
Sheehey’s previous career-high took place last February at home against Purdue. The then-junior went a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor, and IU defeated Purdue 83-55 behind Sheehey’s 22 points.
After the game, IU Coach Tom Crean said the lights of Bankers Life Fieldhouse were too bright for some of his younger players. Sheehey voiced a similar sentiment to his coach.
“We just gotta make sure we compete and get better daily,” Sheehey said. “It’s a process. We just gotta continue to keep chipping away. These guys just getting more comfortable playing in big stages on the road and what not will definitely help.”
Sheehey’s first basket came 17 minutes and 41 seconds into the game off an assist from sophomore guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. Sheehey caught Ferrell’s pass midair and twisted his body, turning to his right and putting in a left-handed layup.
After missing his first shot of the game, Sheehey went on to make his next five. Twelve of his 16 first-half points came from field goals.
Sheehey, graduate student guard Evan Gordon and freshman forward Noah Vonleh scored 30 of the team’s 42 first-half points. Combined, those three shot 12-for-17 in the first half. The rest of the team shot just 4-for-15.
“We gave them too many buckets in transition, obviously,” Sheehey said. “They can really space the floor. They hit some easy looks at the beginning of the game, which makes the tough ones a little easier to hit.”
Sheehey’s first-half performance was vital to a Hoosier team that was outscored 20-16 points in the paint in the first. Despite Vonleh’s perfect 3-for-3 from the field, he failed to take any free-throw attempts and was outplayed by Notre Dame’s senior center Garrick Sherman for much of the first.
Sherman, who scored just 10 points in Notre Dame’s loss to North Dakota State Wednesday night, put up 13 points in the first half, hitting all five of his shots from the field.
After each team shot more than 50 percent in the first half, both Indiana and Notre Dame cooled off in the second half. Sheehey went 2-for-5 in the second and missed both of his 3-point attempts.
After the game, Crean said outside of Sheehey and Gordon, other Hoosiers will have to step up for the team to start winning games, especially with IU’s first Big Ten game just more than two weeks away.
“They’ve got a lot of veterans that made veteran plays,” Crean said of Notre Dame. “Like I said, our veteran in Will, and even Evan, did a really good job, but other than that there’s a lot of room for improvement for us.”
With IU trailing 73-69 with one minute and 21 seconds remaining in the game, Ferrell, after missing a 3-pointer of his own, stole the ball from Notre Dame senior guard Eric Atkins. He found Sheehey at the top of the key and launched a 3-pointer that would cut Notre Dame’s lead to within one. The crowd on hand, which was a majority IU conglomerate, gasped as Sheehey’s shot ricocheted in and out of the rim, fatefully ending IU’s chances of winning.