Good, Bad, Ugly: NCCU

THE GOOD: BOUNCING BACK.

Tale of two halves this evening in Bloomington. After a lack of defensive presence coupled with some lackadaisical play in the first half, IU came storming out of the gate in the second half, and never looked back. Blame the first half on finals, or a week off, or whatever you want, but Tom Crean must have lit a fire under his team in the locker room, because they took it to another level after the intermission. NC Central shot 40 percent in the first half, and only 28.1 percent in the second half.

IU was able to get points in transition, nail some threes (though, they were only 6-of-18 in the second half), push the pace and dictate the game  — something they should do against an opponent like this.  IU’s point guards combined for 16 assists — Jeremiah Rivers had eight (seven in the first half) and Jordan Hulls had eight — and what else can you say about Maurice Creek? He went off for 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting (5-of-10 from three) and even chipped in seven rebounds. The kid just has a knack for putting the basketball into the hoop. I think early on this season, Hoosier fans thought Christian Watford was going to be IU’s go-to scorer and super freshman, but at this point, it’s all Creek all the time.

Tom Pritchard also deserves some recognition here. After many of you thought Elston should get the start in front of him — and rightfully so — Crean did just that, as the freshman started this evening. Pritchard has struggled with foul trouble in several games this year, and has looked sluggish. But he was able to play 21 minutes tonight, hit 4-of-5 from the floor for eight points, and snatch six rebounds.  An amazing line? No. But the non-start seems to have lit a bit of a fire under him, and he was in the conversation tonight — something that’s important to this squad heading into Big Ten season.

THE BAD AND UGLY: CONSISTENCY.

Even though IU shot 56 percent in the first half, their defense — a mix of man and zone — just wasn’t there, and they let a team they eventually beat by 23 hang around. Against a better team, the Hoosiers might have found themselves in a hole at half instead of up three. Sixteen turnovers is a little concerning, though it could have been worse. IU shot 14-of-21 from the line for 66.7 percent, which isn’t going to cut it.

But bottom line: IU brought it in the second half, won big, got the scrubs in — Kory Barnett, anyone? — are .500 on the year at 5-5 and a win away from matching last year’s win total.

  • HoosierDavey

    In the Hall tonight. LOVED the effort of Hulls and the smooth scoring of Mo Creek tonight. Lots to like overall in the 2nd half. I think I can see why TC is using Tijan over Bawa…Bawa really looks a bit lost still, while Tijan at least does a little bit right. Love their attitudes, though.

  • IUonetwo

    I think some of Tijan's improvement has come from game experience, something Bawa has very little of. If we have to have a 7-footer on the floor, I think I would still rather see a guy that will be around for 3 more years vs. one that will be gone in 3 months.

  • silkyslim

    Nice to get an early Christmas gift!

  • JerryCT

    Lots to like about last night . It was a good game to see how TP effects the game . He consistently blocks out and his help on the perimeter was essential for D in the 2nd half. He seals really well on the drives too. Elston is a good player but is not as good at these little things.

    I liked the lineup in the 2nd half……Jones is a very big defensive liability as we saw in the 1st half where his man backdoored him for a 2, then hit an open 3 and then turned him over all within 1 minute. Sitting him down was important.

    I have seen all the B10 teams play this year and if our D doesn't get 100% better we are in for another tough season

  • HoosierSmitty

    We only had a player hit 8 assists in a game ONCE all last season. That's nice to see it happen TWICE in one game.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    I just want to remind everyone that IU is exactly where they were last year, at 5-5 with two non-conference cupcakes left before the Big Ten starts. Then last year, they lost to Northeastern and Lipscomb and only beat Iowa to get to six wins.

    North Carolina Central is an absolutely dreadful team who has not beaten a Division I team this year. Yet they were essentially tied with Indiana at halftime. In fact four of IU's five wins are against teams (Howard, USC Upstate, Northwestern St., and NCCU) who are much worse than anyone IU played last year. The next two games offer no better competition, Bryant is winless this year, so IU had better begin the Big Ten 7-5.

    But let's face it, 5-5 at this point was the low water mark for this team. They are under-performing so far this year, or at best just meeting the low-end of expectations. The only bright spot was the victory over Pitt in New York. In the Big Ten, every team except for Iowa is significantly better than Indiana (even NU minus Coble has been playing well).

    Bottom line: IU for one half outplayed a team that probably couldn't manage a winning record against Indiana high schools. Creek is carrying this team and others (Rivers, Jones, Watford) really need to step up before they run off a load of losses in the Big Ten exactly like last year.

  • Kelin Blab

    GOOD-
    + Jordan Hulls, not to many players are effective passing with both hands, it is small thing but a good tool to have
    + Saw lots of good ball movement
    + Rebounding guards is a plus with a team that doesn't rebound well
    + Crean willing to shake up the lineups to begin the game and after halftime
    + Tijan…Yeah I said it….Guys were coming into the land, flying for rebounds and Tijan put an end to that with his patented “chop to the neck blockout” (serious watch Tijan block out, it starts at the neck…unreal)

    THE BAD
    - Still would like to see more post presence for the guys we have. A jump hook would be nice or even a skyhook?
    - Bawa is NOT ready, end of story and discussion. Looks lost and just not ready this year, but give em time…These games will help him hopefully
    - Jeremiah forces to many passes to me, which erases the great passes he makes

    THE UGLY
    - If I had to pick something it would be IU having to play a SUPER cupcake. I would have prefered a ball state match up or IUPFW with Fife….have we sunk this low.

    Overall, they beat a team they were supposed to beat. Turned up the heat in the second half and finished the game. Going into a game v Michigan with some wins is good confidence.

  • silkyslim

    Great team ball and ball movement! Rivers & Hulls made some awesome passes! I think the team will have less turnovers as they get used to each other. Creek sweet shooting!

    We need to see more 'box-out' rebounding or we will get hammered by the bigs in the B10 like Wisc. or Mi St. Our guards are helping and usually leading the stats on rebounds. Forwards I don't expect double digits on the boards, but 5-10 is the target not 2-3!

    Merry Christmas to all!!!

  • silkyslim

    Nice to get an early Christmas gift!

  • HoosierSmitty

    Yes, we're playing cupcakes…but at least we're winning these games and getting a chance to see these guys experience some success while learning to play together.

    Playing these teams is a part of the process…and I think the confidence the team has gained will pay dividends when the Big Ten season starts.

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    You could argue it's the expectations that were out of whack, not the teams performance to this point. I agree, I was not expecting 0-3 in PR, but I also wasn't expecting to beat Pitt, or that they could even hang with Kentucky for a half.

  • GFDave

    I agree, I thought we'd get a win in PR. So if its true we are under performing, its by a game. I still think that the team will continue to get better and that we can beat NU, Mich and Penn State at least one each and Iowa twice.

  • GFDave

    I know folks are frustrated by Rivers' frenzy, but I really think coach wants him to go fast like that. I think the plan is for Rivers to grow into the pace because he didn't play fast at Georgetown so its new to him. We'll have to see how it works.

    Hulls played very well and I just love his court awareness and anticipation. He's fun to watch. I hope he can find ways to defend as his career goes on because he's always going to be on the smaller side, and unfortunately for him, the bigger guards he'll face will be just as quick, if not more so.

    I hope Pritch took a little shot of confidence from yesterday.

  • cooper

    it actually doesn't worry me because of how he played in this game. it would have been easy for him after UK to come out in the 1st half and chuck up shot after shot but he didn't. in the first half he took 5 shots, and really let the game come to him. once he starting hitting shots he started shooting from all over which on this team is what any hot player should do

  • cooper

    Agree. I swear its like watching a hockey game. It seems the first time he does it in a game it kills the momentum. It did in Ole Miss, and Pitt and a couple others I'm forgeting. I only watched him coach at Marquette if it was a good game on ESPN so I don't know if this is something he does or he just can't get comfortable with this team.

  • cooper

    Agree. I swear its like watching a hockey game. It seems the first time he does it in a game it kills the momentum. It did in Ole Miss, and Pitt and a couple others I'm forgeting. I only watched him coach at Marquette if it was a good game on ESPN so I don't know if this is something he does or he just can't get comfortable with this team.

  • Taskmaster75

    I would argue that while Indiana has started badly, you have to at least cut them some slack. A bunch of freshman who have never played a game together and are still learning each other's tendencies is bound to produce some mistakes. We are now seeing the culmination of that as the team is getting used to each other.

  • Kelin Blab

    First let me say I love Mo Creek…..Now my question/comment. Is anyone other than me concerned about Creek's “love” of the three point shot? He has put up some great scoring numbers in the past two games..but I don't want him to go “Bracey” on us and become a three point bomber…..(I actually was a fan of Bracey)

    I just hope he mixes it up, midrange, F/T's, driving etc.

  • http://www.prinsportsblog.com BGleas

    I think Rivers has played much better and much more under control since getting back from PR. I think a lot of that is due to practice time and everyone starting to get comfortable and understanding each others game. I think we sometimes forgot early on how many new players IU was throwing out there together.

    Hulls looked great on Saturday, I really like the lineup when Rivers and Hulls are in together.

  • http://www.insidethehall.com firedad

    Let me say I do think CTC is the guy…but does anyone else think the substitutions kill our momentum?

  • HoosierSmitty

    I agree to an extent…but you also have to remember how many layups Creek finished on the break, and that he followed his shot to get an easy layup. So he's getting himself inside the 3 point line.

    I'd like to see some mid range jumpers, but he's certainly not just camping out behind the 3 point line. .

  • cooper

    agree, when last year you were the cupcake, its ok to play cupcakes

  • cooper

    part of the issue with Rivers is alot of the passes he makes are where he anticipates guys being instead of where they are. as you mention with practice he has looked better because he is getting a better feel for where guys will be. it will be a growing process i think.

    i agree Hulls looked better. he and Rivers made the baseline guys look good with a number of passes. he needs to work on his D, and saying in front of his man.

  • cooper

    it actually doesn't worry me because of how he played in this game. it would have been easy for him after UK to come out in the 1st half and chuck up shot after shot but he didn't. in the first half he took 5 shots, and really let the game come to him. once he starting hitting shots he started shooting from all over which on this team is what any hot player should do

  • cooper

    Agree. I swear its like watching a hockey game. It seems the first time he does it in a game it kills the momentum. It did in Ole Miss, and Pitt and a couple others I'm forgeting. I only watched him coach at Marquette if it was a good game on ESPN so I don't know if this is something he does or he just can't get comfortable with this team.

  • Diesel

    These are the kind of games you expect or hope to see a lot of guys getting on and off the court to get guys experience, see different guys playing together, look at certain personel together, as well as do a lot of in-game teaching. We shouldn't need momentum to beat NCCentral.

  • IUDan

    Sure IU in terms of record is the same as last year, but I think this year's team beats last years by about 20 – there's just no comparison between the two. There's no doubt this team will have a tough road in the B10, but they are getting better and better, with some real building blocks. I think anyone who thought we'd have a better record at this point was kidding themselves.

  • Ryan_Btown

    Hoosier_Hound paints a dreaded picture of the outlook, and I'm not saying I completely disagree. Puerto Rico was awful. Maryland could have been a better game also. But at home, with turnovers under control, I sincerely think that we can hang with any Big 10 team, and probably pull out a win in a close game that we would have dropped last year. That's the major difference in this team. In a game that they may have stayed close in last year just with hustle, they could actually pull out a W this year due to the freshman talent. Still have a long way to go and .500 seems out of the question (which is what I was hoping for), but it's progress. It's been 22 years folks, I'm willing to wait a few more.

  • IUDan

    Sure IU in terms of record is the same as last year, but I think this year's team beats last years by about 20 – there's just no comparison between the two. There's no doubt this team will have a tough road in the B10, but they are getting better and better, with some real building blocks. I think anyone who thought we'd have a better record at this point was kidding themselves.

  • GFDave

    Honestly, the comparison to Bracey never crossed my mind. I think we're ok here.

  • IUonetwo

    I sat behind the Marquette bench 3 years ago when they played at UofL and remember thinking, “this guy subs like a madman”

  • hoosierodi

    - Glad to see Jordan Hulls have a really good game
    - Jerimiah played poorly in my opinion, occasionaly he threw passes to no one.
    - Creek brings it every game, he hustles, and is always playing as hard as he can. He is gonna be great.
    - VJ…where were you. I wish Crean would have benched after the 1st half because he looked out of it. He was walking around, and just didnt seem to care,
    - Is it just me or does it seem like Pritchard is getting larger every game?
    - I was hoping Watford was gonna drop 25, but he still had a solid game.
    - Maybe Pritchard needs to come off the bench to realize what its gonna take to be a starter on this team.
    - Good finish in the second half, and I really like Creek's enthusiasm in every game.

  • Diesel

    I'll admit I had the same thought….he's not just putting up numbers against the weaker teams. We'll see how he handles the remainder of the season, but I don't think it's not at least a debatable question at this point.

  • CutterInChicago

    I'm with GFDave, I never made a Bracey Wright connection with Mo Creek since we are not running the vaunted “Orlando One” play that we did for Bracey back in the day and I think both HoosierSmitty and cooper are correct in that the difference is that Bracey would have settled for 3 point bombs while Creek seems willing to try and drive it to the hoop.
    Happy holidays folks, I am planning to be in the Hall for tomorrow's Loyola (Md.) game

  • indyd

    I'm gonna throw this out there… any concerns on Mo Creek being “one and done”. Keep in mind, it was reported that he is friends with Kevin Durant, another “one and done”. Clearly he is athletic and can score. Personally, I do not thing he is physically there yet.

  • hoosierodi

    He will be back next year. He just seems like the type of person that loves the college atmosphere , and i don't think he will leave without a chance at the National Championship.

  • IUonetwo

    It would be much better for our team to play some middle of pack teams (think Ball State, IUPUI, Valparaiso) that are winnable games yet provide some challenges. I'm afraid that playing teams that are in the bottom 10 of the RPI rankings is going to send the Hoosiers into the Big Ten playing at their level.

  • IUonetwo

    I sat behind the Marquette bench 3 years ago when they played at UofL and remember thinking, “this guy subs like a madman”

  • Diesel

    We just played Maryland, Pitt, and Kentucky…..and were coming off finals week. We don't need Ball State to prepare for the B10 season. There is no issue in my mind with playing these 3 cupcake games and heading into the B10. They've had their challenges, now we need to spend some time working on us and getting ourselves better.

  • Diesel

    I'll admit I had the same thought….he's not just putting up numbers against the weaker teams. We'll see how he handles the remainder of the season, but I don't think it's not at least a debatable question at this point.

  • cooper

    the average 18yr old is a moron (as I was) and who the hell knows who is advising him. I don't think you can ever discount it. If he does he wouldn't be very good but that hasn't stopped many before him from making the same mistake.

    I'd say he probably would love millions of dollars more than the college atmosphere and I don't see IU competing for a championship in the next 3-4 years.

  • IUonetwo

    well so much for that being a cupcake

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