Consistency in “spirit” key for Hoosiers moving forward

  • 12/31/2010 10:18 pm in

BLOOMINGTON –- Watching Indiana basketball develop over the last two-plus years has been something akin to watching a college freshman trying to take an 400-level test while also trying to study the material.

Friday night certainly seemed like another such example, given the giant disparity in sheer talent between No. 2 Ohio State and IU, now 9-6 and 0-2 in the Big Ten.

But perhaps it’s a credit to Indiana that these games — where the gulf between the two teams is so easily recognized – have begun to serve an even more important purpose.

First of all, to be fair, they’re becoming harder to find. No longer are the Hoosiers as outmatched as they once were in either talent or depth.

Christian Watford, one game lost to back spasms aside, continues to put forth All-Big Ten performances. The more aggressiveness Tom Crean can coax out of Jordan Hulls offensively – and the more room Hulls can find on offense – the more dangerous he’ll become. Victor Oladipo continues to emerge offensively as well.

But by Crean’s own admission, Friday night served to highlight a problem in need of rapid correction as Big Ten play enters January. Seeking to compare his team’s effort Friday, when the Hoosiers struggled mightily on defense but never truly let the game slip away or their hustle wane until the end, to the loss last Monday to Penn State, Indiana’s coach was frank.

“If we’d have played with the same spirit and energy on Monday night that we had tonight – it’s not an excuse, we lost by 18 – but we’d have won the game,” he said of Penn State. “We would have won the game. We’d be 1-1, going to Minnesota.

“But we’re not.”

Indiana is not Ohio State. The Buckeyes, at least as 2010 turns into 2011, look like the best team in the country, with Duke simply warming their seat as conference play begins.

But Indiana is finally a team capable of competing with most – if not all – of its opponents in Big Ten play. There are obviously weaknesses, some that are imminently fixable and some that can only be corrected through time and in certain cases reinforcements.

Monday night against Penn State was hard for fans to swallow because it seemed so winnable, and not just because Indiana has historically owned the Nittany Lions.

Friday night supported that theory, even given the disparity in the final score.

Outmatched at essentially every starting position and probably three players deep into their bench, the Hoosiers never backed down. They still struggled with 3-point defense, they still turned the ball over 14 times (although that’s not actually awful) and they still lost by 18, but they certainly played with a kind of determination that said they refused to be intimidated by one of the country’s best teams.

That kind of attitude keeps you moving through mistakes, keeps your confidence up no matter the score or situation.

Following the 69-60 loss to Penn State, Crean expressed the concern that he felt his team did not believe it could win late in that game. It was a feeling he said was not replicated Friday night.

Indiana might not be able to cut away all its turnovers. It might not be able to communicate as well defensively as Crean would like. The Hoosiers are still an imperfect team.

Moving forward, however, the “spirit,” as Crean put it, that they brought Friday night, consistently, possession after possession, will be their greatest ally.

It must be reproduced for the rest of the season, as much as is humanly possible. Because not everyone is Ohio State, and the Big Ten schedule is still only two games old.

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  • Devout Hoosier

    Ohio St. is tough because they have very good players inside and out. I think most coaches will go for man to man and double Sullinger when he gets the ball. If Indiana would have done that yesterday, I think it would have been a close game in Assembly Hall. Box scores show our margin of loss was easily the 3 point field goals, most of which were uncontested. Our zone could set a season record for number of threes made for any team.

  • Devout Hoosier

    I think the referees give the benefit of the doubt to the star players, consciously or subconsciously. Oladipo had an awesome block against Sullinger and got called with a foul with Hightower 3 feet away. I hope Ed watches the slow replay and realizes his mistake. But the assumption is that a short freshman guard could not cleanly block the large star power forward like that. Just like trying to block a layup on a fast break, contact or not / light contact or not, if you take a swipe you’re going to get a whistle 90% of the time. Our bigs have a reputation of fouling and we’re going to see the same Big10 referees all season. It’s bias we have to live with this season.

    Indiana has gotten our share of these calls going our way for many years. Now that we’re at the bottom of the Big Ten, at home or not, it’s going the other way. We have to take our lumps now but hopefully will be back in true form in a couple years.

  • floridahoosier1

    as a lifetime hoosier fan, whose only posted here a couple of times, I just want to take this op to say that I’ve read these posts for years now, and keep hearing that if we would get 4 & 5 star recruits, we would turn the tables. I don’t miss a game if it’s on TV, and it seems to me that we have lost the last four games to three teams who aren’t stacked with 4 & 5 stars recruits, but we
    got our behinds kicked anyway. when will the excuses stop? when we get zeller and the rest but
    still lose? butler started off bad this year, but I see they’ve righted the ship some without the big name players. IMO something’s wrong with the system that is being used with these kids, and they are still kids, and the losing won’t stop until TC utilizes the talent he does have in a way that suites their skills and not his. a former coach who had no talent but we won against better teams, even if it was junior high! thanks for the opportunity

  • Anonymous

    I have not seen the kid play at all. I don’t feel that short videos are worth much in evaluating a player.

  • Kelin Oladipo

    I agree Mo should keep playing, build his confidence in his knee so that next year he is over it. I do see his confidence building based on his air ball three’s he took in the last game then nailed one late. I like the fact he has gone to the basket more and made some midrange shots. I rather him try it out this year than next year.

  • Kelin Oladipo

    good point on being a professional prospect…..found out last night Devin Dumes is playing professionally with a family friend. Anything is possible.

  • Kelin Oladipo

    Lets not underestimate PSU. This is the same team that I believe won the NIT a couple of years ago and have a ton of experience. Absolutely IU should have and could have beaten them but the big ten from top to bottom this year is tough.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Okay, fine, he just doesn’t jump out as one of the top 100 most memorable Hoosiers.

    Sorry

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    You can evaluate a guy’s athletic ability from those short videos. You may not be able to evaluate his skill set but any guy who can jump from one block, double pump as he goes under the rim, and stuff it on the other side of the goal, is athletic enough to where he should be able to defend a guy like Thomas.

    Whether or not he can put the ball in the Red Sea is a totally different story, I’ll give you that.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I don’t because at this point I don’t think it matters if we played 6 on 5! The other teams are shooting extremely right now and it’s partly due to the fact that they build early confidence when IU leaves them wide open. We’ve played M2M for most of the last three games and got torched from beyond the arc so I find it hard to argue right now that CTC did anything wrong. When they were getting torched in those M2M defenses we were all begging him to do something different and try the zone which seemed to be successful to this point. He did it and we still got lit up so I concede that maybe it’s as much about having players that just don’t have the speed and athletic ability as it is about the coaching.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I don’t know about the first three games but I do know that Thomas and Sullinger were both 5 star recruits and rated 5th and 22nd. Buford was a 5 star and rated 19th. Lighty was a 4 star #36. Diebler was as 4 star #60. Sibert was a 4 star #39. Lauderdale was the only player in their only regular who was a 3 star and he was the #119 recruit in his class.

    That’s a pretty huge difference in talent from the guys we have. That’s not an excuse . . . it’s just a fact.

  • stonaroni

    He shouldn’t need help. You think Coach K, RMK, Dean Smith, etc bring in others to make speeches? Do you think Jim will bring in CTC before a game??? No way.

  • stonaroni

    Christian still struggles finishing on the block in Big 10 play. I have never seen a 6’8″ player with less lift….Okay, maybe Elston and Pitchard….and definitely Capo…..

    you forgot this one Kelin:

    +We fould harder and more often

  • stonaroni

    I can see where it seems that way, but this team is slow. The guards are slow, when they get burned, the interior has to pick the man up, but the interior is slow resulting in weak fouls in the paint. in the 2/3 zone we are slow rotating, slow in help side, slow in ghetting out on the shooter.

    It isn’t officiating, it is because we are a slow team.

    Also, OSU guards actually drive to the hoop. Ours just bounce around the perimeter unable to drive and draw fouls or making the defense react to their quickness.

  • BaseballBuc

    Sometime’s you need to hear inspiration from someone else other than the same people everytime. Crean talked to Stanford this year when they played at Notre Dame, so yes way.

  • stonaroni

    I am n.ot into moral victories when you get beat by 18 at home. I think a 6 point loss is a confidence builder.

    OSU shot 80% in first half because they were wide open.

    13-19 in 3’s because they were wide open.

    This defense is no better than last year. VO helps make it look better, but the scheme is still bad, and the players still do not understand help side D, fighting thru screens, etc. POOR COACHING.

    Some on here want to act like there was a ray of sunshine against OSU, but when we are 0-6 in Big 10 play heading to Iowa in late January the truth will come out of many of you.

    The rebuilding process looks great from the academic perspective, but the on floor product has become stagnant at best.

    Did anyone else notice how our defenders in the 2/3 zone had no clue a screen was coming? Shouldn’t they know that is one way an offense will try to free up a shooter? Coaching 101 right?

    This team wreaks of poor preparation, poor scouting, and poor execution = POOR COACHING!

    Until I see drastic improvement, no one will convince me otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure you can really base Watford’s ability to finish and “lift” on these Big Ten games. They guy was suffering back spasms vs. PSU and was clearly affected. None of us knows how much pain he was playing with vs. OSU, but he was obviously feeling better after a few more days to heal.

    I liked what I saw from Watford vs. UK/UNI/CO. Though his ability to finish toward the end of games is another discussion. Whether that’s an offensive execution issue or a stamina problem remains to be seen.

  • JerryCT

    Brother: We just played a team that has difficult players at every position. No matter the score I think you would have found at least one of their players’ performance would support all your arguments

    I saw evidence that we were going away from the switching on man-man D and Capo/TP are better at this ” show & recover” than the other things we tried. I would stick with this for no other reason right now than to “coach/teach” the amount of effort required to defend in ANY defensive scheme incl the zones.

    ( I will replay again 2nd time for screens in the zone )

    I fear the switching has enabled us to be “structurally” lazy trying to trade the famous so called ” communication” for work rate . ‘CUse zone is not a stand around zone but a lot of hard work

    Dakich is the best analyst in the business , I hope coach listens to him.

    I saw no victory of any kind in the game unless the minutes given to WS and VO are called victories

  • MillaRed

    I’m not really saying we are losing games because of the officiating. I am
    saying there are calls that do not make any sense to me and there was a
    handful against OSU. Hightower in particular does not belong out there.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I don’t think there’s anything to be happy about after the OSU game except that IU payed harder. That’s actually kind of depressing because if they would have played like that the past three games we’d be 12-3 right now instead of 9-6!

    Friday night was a simple case of just flat out being worse than the other team. After watching the game twice, I don’t see a single scenario where IU could have won that game short of half the OSU team coming down with a terrible stomach flu and sitting out!

    I personally couldn’t tell if the coaching was any better or worse because our guys were just so freaking slow compared to OSU! It was hard to tell if the zone was poorly coached and prepared or just poorly played because our players are too slow to collapse and recover to shooters.

  • Anonymous

    You are quicker to judgment than I am. But he does look “promising”. Certainly worth the coaches taking a hard look at.

  • Tberry

    I think that our problem are far more than “spirit.”

  • Anonymous

    Guess I shouldn’t say it if I can’t provide names and dates but I’m pretty sure RMK brought in someone every once in a while to speak to his teams. I have not read anything specifically stating that Coach K and Dean Smith did this kind of thing but I would be willing to bet not a small sum that they also done the exact same thing, maybe not with the same frequency or the same people but it is a practice shared by more than just these 3 top tier coaches.

    Even if they didn’t I don’t think it is a bad thing to do if for no other reason than the one that you stated. I have been on both sides of this kind of thing and have witnessed it being something of value for sure. When I done it as a coach, bringing in someone, it not only fired up my players but fired me up also. I’m not saying the teams I done it with and IU’s teams are one of the same but everyone is motivated by someone or something and even if it fires up only one player to go out and play with a higher level than it has helped that player and the team to a certain point and it for sure won’t hurt the rest of the team. That one player it helped might just be the one that takes the last second shot that wins or loses the game for us.

  • Tberry

    I certainly don’t want Calipari but I really do think we should have seen more improvement this year. It makes me, very seriously, question how much improvement we will see in coming years.
    Yes, I am questioning Crean’s coaching.

  • Devout Hoosier

    Well zone sucks because you can pass the ball quicker than a player can sprint. Crean has played zone a lot from day 1 and we’ve been lit up since day 1. With M2M you need to teach players to go on top of screens. In the last three games we’ve played a lot of zone. There’s a reason why nearly every top NCAA team plays little zone. Against Ohio St. it was a stupid idea IMHO and 13 of 19 shooting proves it. Hopefully Crean will adjust when we visit Columbus Feb 26.

  • Tberry

    but they are not losing their coaches!!!

  • MikeinNC

    Regardless of the score, or whether or not we have enough talent or “help is on the way”, we have the right to expect some basics out of this team: we should see a clear identity and strategy being taught by the coach and executed by the players. We should see the players we have now showing improvement and evidence of good coaching, we should see a team that consistently plays hard and at least periodically wins a game they weren’t expected to win. Based on those standards, I am pretty discouraged right now with Crean’s performance.

  • Ries0585

    CONCUR 100%

  • kentuckyhoosier

    agree 100%

  • JerryCT

    OSU is pretty unique in that their talent at each position complements other positions such that the puzzle pieces fit perfectly together. They are not overloaded at any position but have players at each that can hurt you.

    Did we run out of options ? I do not think so.

    Against OSU and maybe other teams we could play “ball denial” and eliminate “help” , yes that’s right , you play your man and nobody else’s. A number of open looks were due to excessive preoccupation with help defense leaving a player open.

    Lauderdale’s man could have roamed a bit once he was away from the bucket but otherwise open looks were as good as a layup.

    I noticed TP altered his game to play Sullinger anywhere out on the floor. I think we could do more of this with better results than what we are doing now.