Zeller leads No. 1 Indiana past Bryant 97-54

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By MICHAEL MAROT, Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Cody Zeller and Christian Watford gladly welcomed Bryant into the world of big-time college basketball Friday night.

It was ugly.

The 7-foot center and 6-9 forward combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds, overwhelming an undersized foe and leading No.1 Indiana to a 97-54 season-opening victory.

"One of the things is they had a huge size advantage and they have the best player in the country, I think he was 8 of 10 tonight," Bryant coach Tim O'Shea said. "Our two big guys, they both fouled out. So it was very difficult guarding him. We're not going to play against another Cody Zeller the rest of the year."

For the Hoosiers (1-0), it was a special night as they won their 15th consecutive season opener and 28th straight home opener.

The sold-out crowd watched Zeller start his sophomore season as expected, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and making 8 of 10 field goals. The only blip was an unusual 2-of-6 performance from the free-throw line.

Fans saw Watford, the buzzer-beating hero against Kentucky last season, add 15 points and notch a career-high 15 rebounds while wearing No. 32 instead of his usual No. 3 — as a tribute to his injured friend, Derek Elston, who isn't expected to play until December.

They roared when Maurice Creek made it back into a regular season for the first time in 22 months and both times he made 3-pointers.

And they gave athletic director Fred Glass a standing ovation when he announced moments before tip-off that Tom Crean had agreed to a two-year contract extension that will run through 2019-20.

Even the players were excited about the news.

"It's pretty special, you know. He's helped us more ways than you can imagine, on and off the floor, making men out of us really," guard Jordan Hulls said of Crean. "It's really cool to see him rewarded for the hard work he's put in for us."

But Friday night was also about Indiana's players protecting their first preseason No. 1 ranking in 33 years, and they did it with a predictably dominant performance.

Indiana shot 55.6 percent from the field while holding Bryant to 32.3 percent. The Hoosiers made twice as many 3-pointers (eight) as the Bulldogs, and Zeller and Watford combined for nearly as many rebounds as Bryant had as a team (29).

In Watford's case, there's a definite reason he wants to improve on the glass.

"He knows that's an objective, the next level needs to see that at a high level," Crean said. "He got 15 boards and he's probably not going to grade as high in the block outs, so there's room for improvement."

Bryant, meanwhile, couldn't contend with Indiana's dynamic front-line duo.

Alex Francis had 15 points and eight rebounds. Corey Maynard had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Frankie Dobbs had 12 points and three assists.

Against the size, though, the Northeastern Conference member from Rhode Island couldn't compete in its first game as a full-time Division I member — and its first game against the nation's top-ranked team.

O'Shea understood why.

"These kids have played basketball for a long time," he said. "They understand there's a big difference between our level basketball and even the game Monday night, Providence is in the Big East, but they're not in the same stratosphere as Indiana right now."

Certainly not.

Zeller and Watford were so imposing inside that Bryant's two tallest players — Andrew Scocca and Vlad Kondratyev — combined for seven fouls in less than 16 minutes. When Scocca left after picking up his fourth foul with 4:17 to go in the first half, the Bulldogs didn't have anybody taller than 6-foot-6 to use the rest of the half.

The results were predictable.

Bryant hung around early against the anxious Hoosiers, even taking a brief 15-14 lead on Indiana's home court when Maynard scored on a putback with 11:37 to go in the first half.

Freshman Yogi Ferrell answered with two free throws to start an 11-0 run that gave Indiana control, and after that it was no contest. The Hoosiers followed that spurt with a 13-3 run and outscored Bryant 10-0 over the final 3:17 to take a 48-28 halftime lead.

The Bulldogs never cut the deficit below 20 in the second half, though the Hoosiers thought they could have played better.

"We've got to defend and rebound to be successful this year, and I thought we did fairly well throughout the game tonight," Zeller said. "But there were a few plays where we didn't do that and we'll go back to work on it tomorrow."

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