Notebook: Hoosiers rebound for win in second half

  • 12/01/2011 3:03 pm in

Heading into IU’s matchup against North Carolina State, the obvious question mark was rebounding. For the first time this season, Cody Zeller would face a front line with a considerable size advantage in terms of weight and strength.

After one half on Wednesday night – behind tough inside play from Wolfpack forwards Richard Howell, Scoot Wood and center DeShawn Painter – it proved correct.

The Hoosiers were outrebounded 22-13 in the first 20 minutes. The key stat, though, was offensive boards, where N.C. State had the same number as IU’s total rebounds. These led to a multitude of second-chance points, including a tip-in by C.J. Leslie at the buzzer to give his team a one-point lead.

The second half, however, was a different story.

IU’s intensity down low rose. Zeller wasn’t getting pushed around as easy as before. Christian Watford did a good job helping down low and, as he said, it stemmed from a different attitude in the second half (which we’ll talk about in a moment).

“There was a sense of urgency at how we had to play at the rim, and I was proud of those guys,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We gave up some size and we gave up some athleticism at the glass. There’s no doubt about that, but they came back and battled and fought.”

Zeller and Watford ended up with a combined 16 rebounds (seven offensive) and were effective at getting to the free throw line down the stretch. IU’s strong inside play late in the game proved to be the difference.

HULLS SETS THE TONE

One of the biggest issues concerning the Hoosiers the past few seasons has been a lack of true leader both on and off the court. Going into this season, word among coaches and players was that Jordan Hulls was finally becoming that guy.

It was most apparent on Wednesday night in Raleigh.

Hulls was clearly the most vocal player, shouting out plays and directing the rest of the squad in key situations. He was also the one making those plays.

“He was tremendous,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “The big word with him is ‘command-presence’… he was very efficient with the ball and very confident.”

The Bloomington native had arguably his best overall game of the season, finishing with 20 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Known as more of a scorer than a facilitator, he also got players involved and always seemed to make the necessary pass.

Hulls’ three-pointer with 1:45 remaining, which gave IU a 79-75 lead, was arguably the biggest shot of the game.

WATFORD GETS TOUGHER

Following his team’s victory, Christian Watford made it clear that he wasn’t at his best the entire 40 minutes.

“I just wanted to play a little tougher,” Watford said of his second half effort. “At halftime I felt like I was playing as tough as I needed to be, so I challenged myself to make a better effort closing out the game.”

Giving it 100 percent on a consistent basis has been a knock against Watford for a while now. But if he can do this more often then not, IU’s future opponents will be in for a true test.

Whether it was Tom Crean’s words at halftime or Watford internally telling himself to push harder, something clicked down the stretch.

The forward finished with 16 points and nine rebounds (after having only five points and two rebounds at halftime). He fought hard down low and also hit crucial free throws in the final minutes.

ZELLER ANSWERS THE CHALLENGE

Until Wednesday night, Cody Zeller wasn’t truly tested by a physical presence in the paint. Andrew Smith of Butler was similar to Zeller in stature, but the rest of the Bulldogs’ frontline paled in comparison to N.C. State’s.

Despite facing a lineup packed with size and athleticism, Zeller rose to the occasion.

He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds and, particularly in the second half, was a force inside.

IU coach Tom Crean praised not only his ability against the Wolfpack, but also his intelligence.

“He has that clock in his head, he doesn’t panic,” Crean said. “They got us a couple times, but he kept adjusting. He needed to play better in the second half, and he did.”

Zeller’s parents were in attendance early on but left in the later stages of the game to travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to catch their other son, Tar Heels forward Tyler, play against Wisconsin. Coincidentally, that’s when Cody was at his best.

“Maybe they shouldn’t have come at all,” he joked after. “We might have won by 20.”

(Photo credit: Mark McIntyre/GoPack.com)

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  • Anonymous

    I read where at least two fans turned the game off at that point…  VBG!  Too bad for them…

  • Anonymous

    FYI, I have post for the past two years as Gustin.  Changed username to expedite posts!

  • Anonymous

    It was a joy watching CW fight for rebounding positioning in the second half.  It’s the one thing that really stood out for me while watching the game last night.  Second best surprise was RA play.  Looking forward to Remy getting more minutes and experience going forward.

  • Anonymous

    Great start to the year.  I think well beyond most expectations. Think of all of the things we were hoping to happen this year on a player by player basis and almost all performance has been at the upper range of expectations.  Here’s how I see it so far:

    Very Best Case:
    Zeller – was wondering if he would be “D1 ready” or bit of a project. Question answered
    Will and Vic – astounding development and energy.  Never would have guessed

    Above expectations:
    Jordy – got torched a little in one of the early games, but can flat out shoot. 
    Elston – Must have been a lot to the injury
    Roth – Great in his spot role and not awful on D
    Pritch – Was wondering if he would start as the 5 with CW as the 3.   Really like his role as a solid back-up 4-5.  Not getting the minutes I thought he would but seems effective in the time he’s in.

    Improved:
    VJIII – as much grief as he gets, he’s bigger and stronger and does pound it less.  Yeah – he’s making the same mistakes.  But they seem fewer and farther between and he seems to be facilitating much better.  If he can keep improving or even if he continues to give us what he can with a bit fewer minutes that would seem to work.
    DM – used effectively by CTC for spot minutes.  

    TBD –
    Watford – don’t like seeing Will, VJ, and Jordy having to talk to him so much.  Had a dreadful Butler game.    Really nervous about which way “he goes” attitude wise once pUKe and the B1G roll around.  Hoping to hear lots of “CW is the least of our worries” in response.

    Too early to grade:
    Remy, AE – but man, you have to admit from what we’ve seen this far you’d like to see more of what they might be able to do.

    Would love to hear if the ITH addicts see it the same…..

  • Anonymous

    I am also looking forward to the CZ vs ML match-up when we play the Illini.  This two time IU grad has spent the past 18 years working at the U of I.  It’s been tough dealing with their fan base but I have made at least one annual pilgrimage to the real Assembly Hall each year.  And, that has been a blessing!

  • MillaRed

    Watford is totally a tweener if you think about it. He in no way is the banger a power forward should be, yet shoots as well as an power forward in the country.

    He is too tall and not quick enough to be a small forward, yet can post up and get to the foul line more than many at that position.

    CWat will be a 15 ppg scorer by season’s end. The guy has talent. Unlike another that shall not be named, he does much more good than bad.

    But at the end of the day, the guy is just a tweener. Nothing we can really do about it.

  • MillaRed

    For me the recovery from the 7 point lead was really surprising. We just haven’t been able to get back into games like that. NC ST looked like the IU we have watched the last 3 seasons. Feels great to be on the other side for a change.

  • Anonymous

    I posted last night that if we are fortunately enough for CZ to play all four years, he could end up being the National POY!  What you think?

  • MillaRed

    And the weight room.

    And his brothers.

    And his teammates.

  • Anonymous

    Those cross-overs were beautiful; hope we see much more of those going forward!

  • Anonymous

    I think the reason we all get frustrated with CWat is because we KNOW he can do it, just seems like sometimes he doesn’t KNOW he can do it or doesn’t fight to do it.  I really think he is the x-factor to the game on Dec 10th and during the B1G Conference games.  He had a heck of a second half 11 points, 7 rebounds.  We will definitely need him to bring it during those games. 

  • Anonymous

    Funny, my wife and I were talking about just that last night!

  • I love the way that Jordy has taken the responsibility of team leader this year. He is very vocal and the kids listen to him. He is one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen and really, really hope that once he graduates he considers being an assistant coach here at IU. Also I love the early play this year from CZ. He is 7 games into his college career and playing at a high level already. He is going to be an absolute force in the future and much better than his brothers ever thought of being. We true Hoosier fans have been rewarded for our years of rooting for an underpar team at best and its a great feeling to be a Hoosier again.

  • SeattleHoosier

    Welcome to Assembly Hall, Coach Cal.  Walk in, crawl out, and wish you had stayed home.

  • SeattleHoosier

    Love the fact that Remy contributed to the win.  Small thing, but significant in terms of building future capability.

  • Anonymous

    I wish I could say we would be ranked going into the game on the 10th but I just don’t see it.  We are only getting a view votes in the coaches poll and none in the AP poll.  I don’t see us getting that many votes for beating NC State.  It would make for a nice story seeing a ranked IU team going into that game but not sure it will happen.  However, seeing a #15 ranked IU after winning that game would be much much sweeter!!!

    GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    ^ Huge Remy fan. He has something special. Reminds me of Donald Perry.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Personally I never turn games off. Thick and thin boys. We pray and fight for them. Would never abandon them in spirit like that.

  • Anonymous

    at least its at Assembly Hall

  • Anonymous

    IU has a bunch of weapons

  • InTheMtns

    Ooops, you are sooo correct. Too many CJ’s for me, I guess. My apologies to Mr. Leslie.

  • InTheMtns

    I had the same thoughts about NC State the final four minutes of the game –
    been there, done that.  Even listening to their coach talk about them reminded me
    so much of us last year.

  • InTheMtns

    I’ve listened to Fisch’s pre-game interview with the opposing coaches for
    the last four games and each coach has said some version of – “they have so many
    weapons, they have so many guys who can score, you can’t focus on one because
    two others will bury you,” etc. It is SUCH a chance from the past three years
    that I catch myself wondering for just a second what team he’s talking about.
    Then I remember . . . he’s talking about IU!  Man, it’s great!

  • Anonymous

    Defense is never going to be a strength for Jordy but he wasn’t a liability against NC State.  Like I said…I thought he was good enough on defense and that’s the best we are going to get from him.

  • Anonymous

    I pretty much agree with you.  I would probably slide VJIII down into the TBD slot (of course, everything is TBD but we are allowed to jump to conclusions!).  He played well for a couple of games and has been very poor in a couple of games.  We’ll see how he fits in moving forward.

    I thought Watford played really well against NC State.  If he gives us that for the whole season, I would be thrilled.  I am guessing he plays somewhere between the high-end NC State game and the low-end Butler game in most games.  Probably closer to the NC State game.  I imagine he ends up scoring 14 ppg and grabbing 7 rebounds a game.  I’m not worried about the scoring, we know he can do that.  The defense and rebounding is what we need more consistency on.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the best indication of his lack of maturity was the highly contested 3 he chucked up

  • Anonymous

    I did wish it would have been a bounce pass.

  • Anonymous

    Elston’s a pretty damn good shooter, too

  • Anonymous

    I’d give his high school coach some credit, too.  A lot of coaches have a guy that big and they just plop him on the block but I think he allowed Cody the chance to move around and learn to do different things.

  • Anonymous

    VO, Sheehey, Hulls, Zeller and Jones have each led the team in scoring for at least one game.  That’s five guys (wonder if they make burgers, too,) in seven games and it doesn’t yet include the best offensive player from last year, Watford., who will surely join the list soon (maybe Sunday, as Stetson’s roster only has two guys over 6’6″.)

  • IUJeff

    It’s gonna be a long night for the cats. Hope they packed their lunch.

  • IUJeff

    Jordy is awesome. Loved the move where he split the 2 defenders on the right side, created separation, and hit the short jumper. He is a very skilled and intelligent player.   

    Cody is already fundamentally better than his bro at NC IMO. I watched a little of NC game and was surprised at how slowly big bro runs the court compared to Cody and also how much more Cody acts like a true center at IU in how he positions himself to receive the ball. We are not good at getting it to him yet, but he is there waiting. 

    I figured Cody would HAVE to play center for 1 year but he seems very comfortable down low.

    Probable power forward at the next level but will be a dominant center at this level if he wants to be. Both bigs coming in next year have their big man coach on the team already.  

  • IUJeff

    Preparation, experience, a higher bball IQ, and being at home, will beat the street ballers on the 10th.

  • IUBB9

    Just like anyone else, I want to pull out the upset over UK–but watching them last night, they are so long and athletic. IU will have to shoot well from the outside and hope to get some fouls on Davis and Jones with shotfakes.

    It should be a good game, but UK is really good defensively.

  • stonaroni

    The mere fact that Cody stepped up the rebounding the second half shows he is improving and has an unlimited ceiling.

    If he could get a better base and more contact on his man further from the hoop he will snag another 2 or 3 boards a game.  Same thing rings true for CW and the rest of the gang.  They want to migrate to the rim, under the hoop.  The art of rebounding is to clear space between you and the hoop with your man on your hip or back.

    If we get that down by Big 10 season…….look out!

  • stonaroni

    Also, CW let the game come to him against NC st, he didn’t force it.  As long as he understands that he needs to play this way, the more he will score.  CZ is getting doubled in the post and others sag to help.  This will help get CW his 15 to 20 foot jumpers were he is really effective.

    When CW wants to force the action or scoring is when CZ loses looks and CW is prone to turn the ball over.

    I liked the CW we saw the other night, 16 points and 9 boards and truly improved defense and resolve.

  • stonaroni

    I had hope that they could come back and make it a tight game.  With that it could have been a moral win and left the players hungry inside and show a difference between them and the teams of the past few years that would have gone on to lose by 20.

    The fact we won and stuck it to them shows that this team has far more character than we expected and a purpose or will to prove others wrong.

    9th in the Big 10???  Thanks prognosticators for pissing this team off, we fans are reaping the rewards of your ignorance.

  • Pb1230

    Watford’s biggest advantage has always been creating defensive mismatches and getting to the FT line.  He is a tweener, but he uses that to his advantage. 

  • Bleeding Crimson

    They will never do it again.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    They will never do it again.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Watched them against St. Johns last night. They seemed to be very slack on defense, always looking for the “big play” on offense, extremely athletic. Of course, I was watching when they were up 20 points, but it seemed like the pUKe defenders were giving up tons of space. Also, St. Johns was laying off on defense, and we obviously don’t do that. Hopefully, they come in overconfident.

    I think we have a chance of making this a very good game.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Watched them against St. Johns last night. They seemed to be very slack on defense, always looking for the “big play” on offense, extremely athletic. Of course, I was watching when they were up 20 points, but it seemed like the pUKe defenders were giving up tons of space. Also, St. Johns was laying off on defense, and we obviously don’t do that. Hopefully, they come in overconfident.

    I think we have a chance of making this a very good game.

  • IUMike1

    That is something I would like to see a whole lot more of. Well that, and having the entry pass made to the shoulder the farthest from the defender.

  • IUJeff

    I watched some of that game as well. UK looked similar to NC State to me as far as athleticism. Similar is the key word here.

    It will be a tough challenge for sure, but I will take our more disciplined, better conditioned, more intelligent players, playing at home over the street ballers.  

  • Anonymous

    I think that they are similar to NC State as well.  I think if the game is close coming down the stretch and we can remain more disciplined we could pull of the upset.  NC State got rattled towards the end of the game.  This would be a big win for the team and also in my family.  I have been listening to so much crap from my brother-in laws. 

    GO IU!!!

  • Anonymous

    Alright, so after coming down from the high of beating NC State I went back and watched the game in a little calmer state.  Here is what I came up with…

    +  CTC deserves the game ball.  He prepared these guys well and made adjustments at halftime like a good coach does.  Like everyone else on the team he made some mistakes.  Some substitutions in the first half were questionable but as soon as he saw it wouldn’t work he quickly made changes.  When someone made a few mistakes in a row he pulled them, i.e. VJIII & WS.

    +  JH was a stud.  He didn’t get flustered with the longer more athletic defenders guarding him.  He outplayed his man and stepped up and made the big shot when he needed to and also got his teammates involved.

    +  CWat definitely surprised me.  He outplayed CJ Leslie on both sides.  He only had a couple of questionable shots.  He didn’t rebound well in the first half but down right got after it in the second half; getting big boards, diving on the floor in an attempt to recover a loose ball and getting CZ settled down.  We need this kind of effort for 40 minutes in the B1G.

    +  CZ played huge.  I think at this point he is definitely better than both of his brothers.  He played through some tough calls or no-calls. When he seemed to speed things up a little too much in the second half he calmed down and played big down the stretch.

    +  VO like always brings energy.  I like the iso move on the left wing.  His handles have definitely improved.  He did have a few turnovers and a couple of stupid fouls. 

    +  VJIII played a decent game.  I don’t think he deserves as much criticism as he has received.  He made a handful of stupid plays in the game but looked too hustle and try to make up for them the next play.  You just can’t foul a three point shot from 3 feet behind the line.  He had some nice deflections and good steals along with some nice jump shots that changed momentum. 

    +  WS had an off night.  He got beat a couple of times on defense that really stood out.  However, JH and WS had some nice plays on backdoor cuts. 

    + RA really stepped up on a big stage.  He did lose his man a couple of times and didn’t play the defense that I think he is capable of playing.  He hit a big 3 and the thing I like most is when he receives the ball he looks to either drive, shoot, or pass right away.  This is fundamental and along with his defense will hopefully get him some more PT.

    This was a good win and something we can definitely build on.  I think there are question marks all over the B1G and if we can play like we did against NC State we will be surprised by our record this season.  Also, try to watch the next game in a non-biased state.  I think we get down on CWat because we expect better and knows he can play better.  I think we get down on VJIII because he used to dribble the air out of the ball and go one-on-one all of the time and eventually turn it over.  They have both improved and give them a fair shot going into the next game.

    Hoo Hoo Hoo HOOSEIRS!!! 

  • Anonymous

    Last year’s team stayed with them for most of the game at Kentucky’s place, but wilted at the end.  No reason to think this year’s much-improved team doesn’t have a chance to pull it out at home.

  • Anonymous

    hope you are right.  also hoping cw goes off vs pUKe in an Andre Patterson/Duke like way….