Notebook: Zeller gets best of Leonard in Hoosiers’ win

  • 02/10/2012 8:52 am in

Meyers Leonard punched first.

The Illinois big man dominated the Hoosiers inside early on Thursday night, getting any look at the basket he wanted. He scored 15 points in the first half and held his counterpart Cody Zeller — with the help of regular double teams — to only one first-half field goal.

But Zeller punched last.

He owned Leonard and the Illini in the second half on his way to a game-high 22 points. Leonard scored only two points in the final 20 minutes and fouled out with 3:09 to go.

Indiana coach Tom Crean said Zeller never let Illinois’ physical play bother him.

“I think he relishes it. I think it gets him going,” Crean said. “He’s a tough young man. I think the more you come at him, the better it is. Whatever your game plan is, if you want to be physical with him, he’s gonna respond.

“He never speeds up. The emotion of the game, all the things that are going on around him, I’ve never seen him be rattled by those types of things. That’s why the more physical it is, I don’t think that bothers him one bit.”

On one particular play, Zeller finished an and-one against Leonard and appeared to inadvertently hit him in the face with an elbow. Leonard leveled over in pain, walked back to the bench holding his face, and was never the same player.

“He lost his poise a little bit and got bopped a little bit,” said Illinois coach Bruce Weber. “It’s just part of growing up, part of being a big man in the Big Ten.”

Hoosiers get to the line early and often

Indiana got to the free-throw line 42 times against the Illini, and made 35 of its attempts. Zeller and Victor Oladipo combined to make 22-of-26 free throws. To compare, Illinois was just 12-of-15 as a team.

“It’s huge, especially in the Big Ten,” said Indiana guard Jordan Hulls. “We’re a pretty good free-throw shooting team. Those are points that we need and can get.”

Crean said he constantly stresses the importance of getting fouled to his players. The Hoosiers are 10-1 this season when they attempt 25 or more free throws.

Against Illinois, the Hoosiers pushed the issue inside instead of settling for 3-pointers like they sometimes have this season. Indiana attempted only 12 shots from beyond the arc.

“We have to get fouled,” Crean said. “It’s crucial. When we’re physical, when we’re aggressive, when we’re attacking, we’re gonna get to the foul line. This is not a team that can just sit outside and play on the perimeter.”

Hulls returns to point-guard role

For much of Indiana’s game at Purdue last Saturday, Oladipo and Remy Abell were running the show for the Hoosiers. Crean tried to make Hulls handle the ball as little as possible to limit the impact of Lewis Jackson’s defense.

Hulls returned to his point-guard role against Illinois, and shined. With Verdell Jones still out due to a shoulder injury, Hulls found his open teammates and dished out seven assists to only two turnovers.

He also hit several big shots to end Illinois spurts, finishing with 15 points.

“Hulls is just so smart and crafty,” Weber said, “your stereotypical Indiana kid that you watch grow up, knows how to play, does all the right things, gets angles on people. Every time we adjusted something he seemed to find a way to get by and create some different actions for them. Either he’s getting a shot or he’s getting an assist.”

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  • marcusgresham

    What if…..Zeller’s arms grow from his freshman to sophomore year like Elston’s did?  Scary.

  • marcusgresham

    Frank Haith at Missouri has to be on the list.

  • marcusgresham

    I don’t know what it is, but I swear Sheehey is an even better shooter with someone in his face than he is when he’s wide open.  How many times has he hit a three right over top of somebody? 

  • marcusgresham

    You don’t know a certain cameraman from an Indy TV station do you?  That’s where I saw it. 

  • marcusgresham

    I wish they would have reviewed Leonard’s stiffarm.

  • Matt

    With so many players that fill a similar role there’s not that many guard minutes to go around – especially if the D isn’t payin attention to Roth you have toilet him try and pop a couple and when jordy/will/vic are going as well as they were it’s tough to find the right mix. Depth is a good problem to have for sure

  • defendtherock

    Jordy got his second foul at around the 6 minute mark of the first half.  That jacked up the rotation a little bit.  Crean was trying to save him at the end of the half, so moore got in. 

  • defendtherock

    Jordy got his second foul at around the 6 minute mark of the first half.  That jacked up the rotation a little bit.  Crean was trying to save him at the end of the half, so moore got in. 

  • defendtherock

    It seems very wishful, but I am hoping it happens.  If we get the 5 seed, we get to play PSU or Neb in the first round, and then the 4 seed the next day.  Then OSU would be next.  It pretty much gives us no chance.  If we can get to the three, we are on the opposite end of them, which would be really good for us. 
    This is all determined by our hoosiers taking care of business from here on out!

  • SCHoosier

    I think Crean will see it differently..altho the two wins put a lot of pressure of VJ’s minutes. Did anyone notice that it looked like Jones had some kind of shoulder harness on underneath his warm ups? Maybe not. Could it be this injury is more serious than we are being led to believe. Would be nice to have his experience and ability to create a shot back for the stretch drive..that said there is no doubt that IU moves the ball faster and with more purpose when Hulls is controlling the ball. Want VJ to finish strong….but want the Hoosiers to finish strong also. I think the Hoosiers are venerable to a really good press..would rather see VJ and Hulls handling the ball early than VO..but once the ball gets over half court and into the attack area..VO needs to do his thing. (which should not include taking a 3)

  • SCHoosier

    Star reported this morning that the NBA had several scouts at the IU/ILL game…looking at the two bigs. My guess is they figured out that Cody needs the weight room and Leonard needs a nanny.

  • IU1972

    He (fittingly, though nobody wants to see a guy get hurt) got injured by dribbling with his head down right into an opposing player. 

  • MillaRed

    Verdell certainly can help us win games. Just would rather it not be as a starter. Even CTC has put him on the bench in a few crunch times. Problem is, you just don’t know when he going to make that bad play. So I have a hard time trusting him.

    All I needed to see was Daniel Moore on the floor vs Illinois to realize how important VJ is from a depth perspective. I just don’t view him as a starter.

  • MillaRed

    Most mock drafts have Cody as a top 5 pick. Well ahead of Leonard.

  • MillaRed

    Great point. Totally agree.

  • FWHoosier

    Missed shots are pretty much turnovers!? Are you kidding me? You have shown your basketball IQ

  • IUMIKE1

    I noticed that too. In the photo gallery from the game there is a picture of that part of the team that was on the bench, after a timeout had been called, coming out to high five the ones that had been on the floor and it looks like you can see just a little bit of something black on  his shoulder under his warm up. I also noticed during the game that, and I’m pretty sure it was when this picture was snapped, that he was high fiving and back slapping with his left side only while his right side was not moving at all for the most part.

  • IUMIKE1

    I’m with MillaRed on this one great point, but then again I’m on board with just about anything that keeps Kunttackee from winning at all on anything. If there was a collegiate tourney for tiddlee winks I would make it a point to root for whomever was playing against Satan’s team.

  • IUMIKE1

    Agree, as far as improvement from last year to this year goes it is very comparable to CTC. I don’t know who votes on each COY honors but I’m wondering if his supposed connections to all the crap that went down about his last place of employment (U of Miami ) will hinder him in any of them.

  • IUMIKE1

    And a nanny that can make the boo boo on his chin all better and one that can make that big ole meany at Bloomington stay away from wittle ole Mylesy Myles.

  • Tom S

    I think there can be good, valid discussion around whether Verdell should start, especially with what I see as the growth in Hulls over the past four or five games (NOT just since Verdell’s injury).

    But to me the Remy stuff is just silly, and Verdell is still a better option as a starter than Sheehey.  I am intrigued by Elston starting, though – before the season started I thought Elston being good enough to start might be the key to having a good team, and I definitely think there are teams where Elston’s size can be needed from a match-up perspective.

  • Tom S

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more serious – wasn’t Will “day-to-day” for about three weeks?

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Agreed, 2013 seems like best shot to me.  I’m mixing up conversations from different articles, but on another thread someone predicted that Zeller could get his degree completed and leave a year early with summer classes.  He could always get his MBA and stick around for his last year of eligibility.  But I’m a bit worried we won’t see him into 2014.

    Let’s just hang another banner next year and leave nothing to chance?

  • Geoff_85

    Scary indeed…for every other team out there. 🙂

  • Geoff_85

    I totally agree here. The end of that game…wow, and I’m not even close to being a Kansas fan. In fact, they might be in my top ten of teams I really really do not like, but the refs made sure that Missouri got out of there with a W. Good point about the timing of calls as well.

  • Geoff_85

    I thought that very same thing regarding the ball going off of Zeller’s shin.

  • Geoff_85

    Indiana should move up a couple of spots. Creighton just got the piss beat out of them giving them their third loss to an unranked opponent in as many games, and second this week. If they’re in the top 25 on Monday, I’ll be surprised. I think IU will be #21.

  • Geoff_85

    I just don’t see it happening. If Indiana can manage to win out, they may very well get a 3 seed, but even 10-8 may even be enough for a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has them as a 4 and playing in the Midwest right with Louisville being the 5 seed meaning if they both won their 1st round games, they would meet in the second round. I know there are people on here salivating at the thought of that. If Lunardi’s current bracket comes to fruition, Indiana would be 7-5 against NCAA Tournament teams. That’s pretty good compared to expectations coming into this season.

  •  The role Pritch is playing now is almost perfect for him. I thought Zeller’s presence would help him, but he’s a totally different player from what he used to be. Great to see.