Good, Bad and Ugly: George Mason

GOOD: VAST IMPROVEMENT.

Yes, Indiana lost, and ended up 0-3 in Puerto Rico. But the Hoosiers looked much better against George Mason this morning than they did against Ole Miss and Boston University.

Guys like Bobby Capobianco — seven points, 10 boards (five offensive) and Jordan Hulls — eight points — played the best games of their young careers. Bobby C. might not have a ton of polish, but he did the dirty work on the boards and finished around the rim. It’s exactly the kind of play Tom Crean is looking for from him off the bench. Hulls played with poise, and I think did a better job of orchestrating the offense today than Rivers had done in the previous two games in this tourney. Crean recognized that, and when both Hulls and Rivers were in the ball game, it was Hulls bringing the ball up.The box score only reads 13 minutes for Hulls, but he played so well when he was in there, it seemed like much more.

Hulls lacks athleticism and when you couple that with his size, it can create some matchup problems. But he’s solid, doesn’t make many mistakes and has great basketball IQ. And he flashed some range today with two threes. If the Hoosiers would have gotten a chance to get a three off to tie the game instead of Mason fouling so they had no chance to pop, Hulls was the guy I wanted shooting the ball.

IU seemed more under control, and their 15 turnovers came less off trying to do too much or getting out of control on the break, and more off some passing problems. On the offensive end, they looked more mature, looked more confident. But they just weren’t knocking down shots (20-of-57 for 35 percent shooting), and missed a lot of bunnies around the rim. It proved quite costly.

Perhaps most important in this loss was the way IU closed out the game. It wasn’t an implosion like we saw against Boston University. They didn’t wilt. They scored when they needed to. And with the game tied and Mason looking for a go-ahead bucket, IU played terrific defense and forced Cam Long into a desperation three with the shot clock winding down and a few Hoosier hands in his face. He just happened to hit that desperation three. On a bank shot. A bank he most certainly didn’t call. Tough way to lose, especially for a young team looking for confidence.

The Hoosiers also hit 21-of-28 from the line, good for 75 percent. Lets hope those early free-throw woes are a thing of the past.

THE BAD AND UGLY: DEFENSE.

For as improved as the Hoosiers looked with the ball in their hands this morning, their defense was atrocious. It seemed no matter what they tried — man or zone — Mason just dunked all over them. They were able to get behind Indiana’s zone for high-percentage shots, and they got a lot of alley-oops off penetration. There’s a reason Mike Morrison shot 64 percent from the field this morning: all he did was dunk.

George Mason scored 42 of their 69 points in the paint.

Tom Pritchard got into foul trouble early. And in 14 minutes, he had two rebounds, an assist and no points. This sort of production is starting to become a trend for him. You wonder if someone else steps up — perhaps Bobby C. with his play today, or Tijan or Bawa — they might be inserted into the starting lineup. That’s a bit of a scary prospect, but Crean might have no other choice soon.

Christian Watford also had a rough go of it in Puerto Rico. He looked like he’d be the runaway Pick to Click winner every game after Howard and USC Upstate, but this morning he was only 3-of-13 from the field, and he shot  25.8 percent on 8-of-31 shooting in Puerto Rico. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the athleticism of Ole Miss, and his lack of strength is sometimes an issue.

But he’s a freshman. You’d expect the shot to come back at some point soon here.

  • harvo

    I said way back before practice even started that bobby c would have tp's job this year and i still believe so. Elston needs more minutes …. lots more

  • hoosierodi

    The thing that is bad with Watford, is that he forces his shots too much. 8 of those 13 shots were forced and not good shots.

    Hulls and Capo played great. I was excited to see both of them finally get some confidence after playing kind of reserved in previous games.

    Another solid game from Creek. I like how agressive he is, he is always looking to score, and we have really needed someone like that.

    I wanna see Bawa play more still. How does Jobe get into the game more than Bawa. Jobe honestly has no idea what he is doing out there, but he did score which is great!

    I think we played well today, and that bank in 3 is just unlucky, just like when polar bear on wisconsin made that prayer bank 3. The lack of leadership really stands out on this team, because when things start to slowly fall apart there is no on there to pump them back up and pull them together (we really could use Taber this year for this reason only). I hope that our crowd will do that at home games, but we might struggle on the road.

    We are getting better though and I like that. Improved from the FT line. Less TO's than the other team. Out rebounded the other team and shot 63% from 3pt. A lot to look forward too.

  • DMJ

    A case of the mornings? I hope. As mentioned above, there is no one on this team to keep them from falling apart quickly. Maybe more liberal time out calling would help but there are only so many to use before they're gone (and in close games you'd like to keep them for the end anyways.)

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    Disclaimer: This is not a “sky is falling” post. I still believe in Crean and wasn't expecting a huge jump in wins this season, I was expecting close/tough loses like we're seeing. The talent is improved, but we're still extremely young in inexperienced. Crean will get us there and we're on the right pat IMO.

    With that said, I thought the coaching in this game was terrible. The substitution patterns are so erratic. Does Elston have minutes limitations because of the knee? He seems to come in for 2-3 minutes, then come right out. How is he supposed to get comfortable?

    Hulls and Moore in together? In with them was VJIII, Watford and Capo. That can't happen. I thought that was a perfect time to give Watford some minutes at the 3 and maybe get him going with some open perimeter looks and penetrations. Then put Elston and Capo inside, which would have given us size and length everywhere but PG.

    I also thought the shot-clock violation was terrible. Yes, Rivers should be more aware, but remember the main clocks were out. We were on offense near our bench, and I didn't see one coach or bench player yelling the clock down to there teammates on the floor, that coaching.

  • psvirsky

    I couldn't watch the game but it sounds encouraging. One thought on our inside play and Watford specifically. It feels like right now we just can't bang down low (although Bobby C did some banging today). When Watford and Elston grow and put on weight, we should be a lot better in that area.

    Anyway, here's my thought. How does Watford's size compare to DJ White when he was a freshman? I was at IU when he came and remember this skinny tall kid – by the time he graduated he had really become a beast inside. Obviously his game is different and even with DJ's weight he would be more of a perimeter player, but he could do serious damage if had the size to take some abuse when driving the lane. I saw Crean saying that they seem him as more of a 3 but as long as we don't have dependable 4's and 5's, it'll be tough to keep his height outside.

  • stevealford

    Hulls needs more minutes. He is the real deal , just needs more experience. Is anyone else concerned our players from last year are regressing insteading of improving? Pritchard, Dumes, and Jones has regressed since the end of last season.

  • harvo

    I said way back before practice even started that bobby c would have tp's job this year and i still believe so. Elston needs more minutes …. lots more

  • spiderman0551

    I second that on the coaching. I hope it's just Coach Crean trying to figure out what is going to work best, after all these games don't really count for much. I didn't see the whole game, mainly the end but I thought they played bad and were coached badly as well. They seemed lost, and the shot clock violation just epitomized that. I have faith in all of them, we have a lot more talent and I think Coach knows what he's doing. We aren't contending for anything this year, just trying to rebuild a program.

  • tmeaster

    I think VJ has played better at times, but I agree that Pritchard and Dumes have not played as well as they did last year.

  • jgongora86

    Heck, I'm so disgusted by our sophomores that I think our starting line up should look like this.

    Rivers (but hulls should acquire half the minutes).
    creek
    Watford
    Elston
    Bawa

    I know this team is young but I'm so ticked off at Coach Crean for not playing him. Can he really be that much worse than Jobe. If this kid is going to be a pivotal piece to the puzzle by the time he is a junior he needs games like this. Verdell turns the ball over way to much ( I cringe when I see him driving in the lane, or making a long pass). Dumes is a turnover machine, and pritchard can't make bunnies. Coach can't worry about hurt feelings.

  • nllspc

    Man worked a helluva lot better than zone. You're just remembering the two times Pritchard and Capo got smoked on a couple back door dunks. We got steals off of man and pritchard and rivers were horrible covering the baseline in zone. G.Mason were consistently allowed entry passes into the high post which broke the zone down. When that wasn' t happening we were beat off the dribble while in zone. WHY ZONE? We weren't at a size disadvantage and athleticism was fairly even. Crean's over-preaching of aggression leads to turnovers, fouls, and getting beat off the dribble. A young team just can't overcome those things. Turnovers didnt kill us today but they did last year and will do so many times this year again. This teams fundamentals are broke.

  • GFDave

    I agree with those that think Bawa is a better choice than Tijan, but I think I heard Crean mention in one of his media availabilities that Bawa isn't practicing with the intensity he wants. So maybe not playing Bawa is his way of establishing the kind of program priorities he wants. Just speculating of course, I haven't actually asked Coach about it (vbg).

  • cooper

    I guess I wasn't watching the same game. I saw Hulls unable to stay with his man on D and have difficulty getting the ball past half court. He consistently was stopped by the Def and couldn't get the ball to the 3pt line without having to pick up his dribble. He did hit two nice threes but that was about it as far as I was concerned. I tend to think the coaches saw the same thing since Moore came in a few times before Hulls did. I may be wrong and reasonable minds can disagree

    Capo isn't polished but he played well and looked good. Loved the play where he got it in the post, made a move then tossed it to Hulls for the open 3. He needs more minutes over Pritchard.

    Pritchard looked confused and lost the entire game.

    Zone defense needs work, the baseline is wide open for alley oops and GMU only took advantage once.

    VJ is the best offensive player on the team right now. I really wish they would stop playing Moore and let VJ be the 3rd PG or 2nd PG.

    Elston struggled with how athletic they played

    I don't mind the loss to GMU, they look like a good team. Much better than the loss to BU which was embarrassing. Certainly they played better and who knows what would have happened if they went to overtime.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I think George Mason is an NCAA team and the Hoosiers were a play or two away from beating them. That is a step forward. A very small step, but progress nonetheless.

    The returning players, with the exception of VJIII, have been absolutely horrible. I loved what I saw from Bobby C today and Creek continues to impress me. Watford will improve with time and Rivers has been pretty good. A win would have been great for the confidence but at least we played well in a game. I'll be an optimist, let's get by Northwestern State on Saturday and try to shock Maryland in Assembly Hall.

    By the way, how badly does this roster need an injection of athleticism? We need you now Sheehey and Oladipo!

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    I agree with you on Hulls. I'm as frustrated as everyone with Rivers turnovers, but many over on Hoosier Nation are saying Hulls should play ahead of Rivers. IMO Hulls not only looked over-matched athletically against Ole Miss, but against Howard and USC Upstate as well.

    I'm not bashing him, it's just that he's a freshmen that needs to adjust to the speed of the game. At this point he struggles to get the ball up the court and against half court pressure. Again, Rivers turnovers are frustrating and getting tiresome, but along with maybe Jones, he's the only guy we have right now that can force the action and make some things happen IU needs that right now.

    As Hulls adjusts and becomes more comfortable, then I would increase his playing time.

  • tberry

    Bob Knight had many inferior players many times but installed a system that let them win.

    Crean has the talent but is not installing a set play system. He is installing a concept system that will look suspect until it starts to “click” and then it will get better and smother and will let great players react in winning ways.

  • NMHoosier

    Having sat right behind the bench today, I can tell you I am not happy with Watford's body language. He was slumping his head and shoulders every time he got taken out…and Crean had a quick hook on him for not playing defense a few times today. If he doesn't step up and realize that playing time is not a right, and he has to fight every possession, then I think Crean will send him a message by starting someone over him real soon. Maybe he'll do that next game with Bobby Capobianco…who was the only guy that played with intensity, passion and energy on every possession that he was in the game today.

    I have to agree with some other posts about the coaching. I'm not impressed at all with the effort here in Puerto Rico over the 3 games. All I keep hearing is “these are correctable errors”…well, why aren't they being corrected? And I'm sorry, I'm not buying the “we're young and inexperienced” crap any longer. George Mason from what I've heard is the youngest team in their conference…a conference far inferior to the Big Ten…and yet they played with poise and confidence and found a way to win. Coach needs to try something else..because whatever he's doing is not getting through to the kids.

    I'm leaving the island sorely disappointed we couldn't get a single win, but I am proud and honored to have been here to support the Indiana Hoosiers! Hopefully, they will prove me wrong and actually win double digit games this year. Go Hoosiers!

  • ronb

    I would agree that Jones can score but he is no PG. He is way to turnover prone. We tried him there all last year and he had 100 assists and 99 turnovers. That would be terrible for a PG they should be at least 3:1 or 4:1 assist to turnovers. Jones scores better when he lets the game come to him and not force things when there is no opening. For this team to win TP has to play better. Dumas can ride the pine until he gets his attitude fixed.

  • Kelin Blab

    I did not see the game but listened on the radio on the way home….

    Please let me say the sky is not falling and whether we like it or not, we are in a similar boat as last year…with a young team, new players, no team chemistry or leadership, and making bad mistakes…..

    But for me, I like the competition we are playing
    I like how the kids are competing
    I like our depth
    I like the pace we play at
    I like the improvements today in F/T and rebounding

    All these things will help this team as we get into conference play and late in the season, just as it did last season as we saw the team improve and get better. No time to panic, some of Crean's Offensive stuff I am not a fan of or some decisions either but that is what makes IU fans different, we look at the game with a different basketball eye.

    First tourney and road trip these kids have had, vastely different from playing at home.

    What you will see vs N'Western State…..better rebounding, better shooting, and a more comfortable team with one another.

    Oddly enough, you will see some confidence being built in Hulls, Bobby C. and Mo Creek. You get a Mo Creek with growing experience and confidence prior to big ten play, you are going to find yourself a difference maker on this team by mid season. He came in late, still adjusting, but still has a ton o' talent……

    These things will lead to in my early prediction….an IU win v Maryland…..in the ACC Big Ten Challenge.

    Please give me LIKE points when this prediction comes true…..Colts 10-0 thanks Ed Reed

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    He's not a pure pg, and I think his move to SF has helped his game. But, in the event that both Rivers and Hulls are in foul trouble, Jones is a better option at the 3rd PG position than Moore.

  • indiananorthshore

    I agree, I am not buying this inexperienced crap either. University of Florida won a championship in 05'06 with 5 sophs,Ohio State went to the final game with playing three freshman a couple of years ago. There is absolutely no improvement in Jones, Pritchard and Dumes. It's all about coaching. We are becoming the Notre Dame/Michigan of Basketball. A storied program with 5 championships currently a mediocre program. Hiring the wrong coach can kill you and we have hired three straight bad ones.

  • Kelin Blab

    HD that is a good point as to Crean putting pieces together….you look at the athleticism of Ole Miss and the one thing this team lacks to an extent…then you look at Victor O and SHeehey coming in next year, two super athletic wings…..You look at a strong combo guard like Carlino coming in in 2011 and the pieces will be there……

  • Kelin Blab

    I tried to resist…..
    Whom should we have hired….

    In my opinion I would love for us to have hired the following coaches:
    1. Coach K – has every reason to leave Duke and come to a school with major sanctions

    2. Roy Williams – competing for national championships has to get old

    3. Coach Cal – we would love a talented team with a black cloud of violations hanging over them…(see Kelvin Sampson)

    4. Tom Izzo – Has built a powerhouse at MSU but who says he can't do it with walk-ons, baseball players, and team managers like last year.

    5. Bill Belicheck – Surely what he has done at New England he can duplicate at IU, Izzo was a football guy too?

    One thing IU and ND have in common is, this is not your 1976 Golden Domer programs anymore so as much as I/WE LOVE IU, we didn't have a lot of options for high caliber coaches and we are VERY LUCKY to get a 'go getter/grinder' coach like Crean.

    People chill out, we will be singing a different song once IU beats Maryland

  • HoosierSmitty

    I guess we chalk it up to inexperience again, but it's a fact. We just don't have a nucleus of guys that have played together for a few years. It hurts us when it counts.

    Other than that I continue to be frustrated by simple things – lack of defensive awareness, blocking out, basic passing fundamentals, etc.

    Capo was a pleasant surprise today. I'd like to see more of that. Hulls has a knack for hitting the open 3. If he can distribute the ball effectively and continue to hit those 3s, he'll have a positive impact on the team.

    It was a terrible way to lose this game…but I can't imagine many of us felt in our hearts that we'd pull out the W. Hopefully the guys aren't too discouraged and can recover on the way home.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Rivers is our best option at PG.

    What about trying this starting lineup:
    Rivers
    Creek
    Watford
    Elston
    Pritchard

    Jones has the versatility to sub in for a number of other players. He'd be a great spark for us off the bench, something that Dumes isn't giving the team. Then if Hulls comes in with him, he has a second PG that can help run the offense.

    What does everyone else think? I love VJ III, and it's not a discredit to what he's done; I think it's a testament to his versatility.

  • Kelin Blab

    Smitty I am somewhat with you on the starters, I am not sold on TP playing the 5, but would love to move Wateford to the 3, not the 4, and elston is a solid 4 man……I have NO idea why Bawa can't get some time on the floor when Tijan does…that one blows my mind. I like Creek, VJ, and Rivers, they are a potent attack but I want Wateford out of the 4 spot, he is not big enough yet….

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    The situation IU is in now is nowhere near where Florida and OSU were at, and our talent isn't near what theirs was. First, we don't have a single player as talented right now as Oden, Conley and Cook when they were freshmen. Second, those guys came into a team that had established players on it. OSU wasn't 6-26 or whatever we were.

    Crean is working with a far below avg '08 class, a mid-major transfer, a transfer that averaged 2ppg at Georgetown, and real good freshmen class and walkons. He really only has one class and those guys are freshmen without a real super-star in the group.

  • JerryCT

    Just returned from PR and most of what everybody says has merit to it including some of the coaching. My quick reactions are these :

    1. GM had Nova down by 16 in the 2nd half so we hung tough against a very good team today

    2. Our up tempo offense is clearly not effective enough to win games. We MUST get into a half court scheme. Every other team in the tournament played better than we did in the 1/2 court

    3. Hulls, Watford, Creek and Capo are not yet ready to face B10 players but they will be. Creek has the offense but at times is really bad on D. I think it is correctable

    4. Defense is our biggest aichilles heal and needs to be job #1

    5. If TP and DUmes donot start scoring they do in fact need some intervention. TP almost refuses to take the short jumper or go hard to the bucket

  • HoosierSmitty

    If we had another option at the 5, I'd suggest it. I don't know that Bawa or Capo can handle the position as a starter. Prtichard, as bad as he's played, is probably our best option there. At the very least, we let him have his chance to perform or watch him get some early fouls and then go to other options

    Watford has to be on the court, and I too would love to see him in the 3 spot. Bawa needs experience ON THE COURT if he's going to be successful down the road. Something has to be up with him that we don't see. I wish Crean was asked about Bawa in press conferences, but I don't know that he'd be entirely forthcoming with what is holding Bawa back.

  • ronb

    I agree. Moore brings not much to the table

    Life is too short so Laugh insanely, Love truly, and Forgive quickly.I hope everyone is happy in your head… We're all doing great in mine!Love Ron/Dad/Pappy

  • Kelin Blab

    Smitty with Bawa Crean said what the issues is, and it is 50% Crean 50% Bawa….he said bawa is not there yet, but he is working EXTREMELY hard with the coaches and at some point he (Crean) is going to have to trust him and put him out there…..I think it is more Crean's trust level than anything, but that doesn't jive cause if he considers Bawa as 'not there yet' how does he determine Tijan as 'there yet”…..

    Love Tijan, but he needs to be the garbage time player we all love and nothing else.

  • ronb

    I think in these last 3 games Watford was the key. He played poorly allowing the other team to crash the boards because Watford was not in position to help rebound after his missed shot. If he can hit those shots on a regular basis it will open up the middle. He played like a freshman away from home and not like the kid we saw in the first 2 games. The good news is he will learn to play at a higher level away from home with experience. We are asking a lot from our freshman. I would also like to see Rivers,Dumes and Jones kick the ball out to an open man when the middle is not open. This would open up the middle because the defense would be forced to stay on their man. I saw numerous times when Hulls,Creek,Elston and even Capo were wide open but no one kicked the ball out and in many cases the man forcing lost the ball and made lots of turnovers. Hopefully
    coach will show them the game films.

  • Diesel

    Reality Checks:

    1. We have 3-4 freshman in the game at a time with freshman bodies making freshman mistakes, it's like a magnifying glass
    2. Crean does not miss block outs, pass the ball to the other team, or miss the front end of one and ones. He made a decision early in practices to establish a style of play over installing sets which will help with recruiting. There is only so much time and these guys have a lot to work on. Fundamentals aren't learned in the 3 weeks prior to the season nor in AAU ball. So, work on help side defense or set plays? Again, only so much time. They will get better.
    3. The guys who should be providing leadership – Dumes, Rivers, Pritch, VJ3 – are not doing so
    4. We are rebuilding and it will take time, 1 win would have been a successful trip to PR. Not many people are predicting a winning season.
    5. The team did make some nice adjustments between BU and GMU, namely getting to the foul line AND converting, as well as rebounding the ball
    6. We are further along than we were at this point last year. Patience IU faithful, patience.

  • http://ryancorazza.com Ryan C.

    Yeah, you're right. When IU switched to man in the first half, the bleeding stopped a little bit.

  • HoosierDavey

    Right on, we are further along. Only reason we won anything in Maui last year was because we played D2 Chaminade…and we didn't kill them. Crean is putting together a puzzle. He's got some pieces in place, has some others close to being ready to install, others he needs to find. It will take time to get this right. I'm as bummed as anyone about the weekend, but we've got to hang in there with these guys.

  • cooper

    We agree then, my main point was Moore should not be in the game.

  • cooper

    I'm fine with Crean as the coach but until someone proves Calipari did something wrong at Memphis then to me its a bunch of sour grapes. I'm not saying he is innocent but he hasn't been proved guilty. He may have a shady relationship with Wes, but a lot of coaches have shady relationships. Most of the top coaches walk a fine line. He surely is no Kelvin Sampson. If Cal was here, IU would probably be fighting for a Final 4 spot in Indy this year.

  • Kelin Blab

    HD that is a good point as to Crean putting pieces together….you look at the athleticism of Ole Miss and the one thing this team lacks to an extent…then you look at Victor O and SHeehey coming in next year, two super athletic wings…..You look at a strong combo guard like Carlino coming in in 2011 and the pieces will be there……

  • cooper

    I'd go super small and start Jones and take out Pritchard. I think he is clueless this year and his size adds nothing because he can't jump and he can't play uptempo

  • ronb

    Correct

    Life is too short so Laugh insanely, Love truly, and Forgive quickly.I hope everyone is happy in your head… We're all doing great in mine!Love Ron/Dad/Pappy

  • stephen

    pieces? what about a center?

  • eville

    So far Hulls has not impressed me.I think Moore plays just as well as Hulls.

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    Good point Stephen. Creek looks like the real deal and VJIII should be even better next year. Not saying we shouldn't continue to recruit wings to add depth or that I don't like VO or Sheehey, but the glaring weakness of this program right now is at PG and in the middle.

    Unless Crean lands Selby, which looks less likely if IU continue to struggle, then there is no help on the horizon at those spots.

  • plane1972

    Kelin, you're the man! Great post.

  • West Coast Hoosier

    Simply shoot free throws decently and we would have won at least one and maybe two or even all three of those games! Make those guys shoot free throws in practice until they're green!

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