Jones silences critics with second half play

  • 02/15/2012 10:52 pm in

The question heading into Wednesday night’s game with Northwestern was how Indiana, fresh off a pair of convincing wins, would reintroduce senior Verdell Jones into the rotation.

Jones, who left a loss at Michigan back on Feb. 1 with a shoulder injury, had started the season’s first 23 games, but the Hoosiers didn’t seem to miss him in a 17-point win at Purdue or a 13-point win against Illinois.

An increased ball-handling presence from Victor Oladipo was something Tom Crean said he didn’t see a reason to change in his pregame meeting with the media.

So where exactly would Jones, who has spent the majority of his IU career with the ball in his hands, fit?

The senior from Champaign, Ill. entered the game at the 14:23 mark, but his first half was forgettable. Eight minutes. Two assists. Zero points. Indiana hit the locker room with a six-point lead.

But as Northwestern mounted a 54-51 lead halfway through the second half, Crean looked down the bench for a veteran presence to help negate the effectiveness of the Wildcats’ swarming 1-3-1 zone.

And Jones delivered with three key baskets down the stretch, including a 19-footer with 31 seconds remaining, to lift Indiana to its 20th win.

He finished with six points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals, a blocked shot and no turnovers in 18 minutes.

“I thought he responded in a really good way especially in the second half,” Crean said of his senior guard. “As impressive as his scoring was, the eight deflections for us were even more impressive. He did really good things defensively in a really tightly-contested game.”

Jones, who admitted he was fatigued in the first half, showed no hesitation over the game’s final 4:04.

His first bucket from the left wing was reminiscent of the game-winner he hit against Michigan on Jan. 5. He followed that with a sweeping layup to push IU’s lead to four with 2:53 remaining.

And as Northwestern played for a stop in the game’s final minute, Jones buried a deep two to put Indiana up six.

“I thought the first half I was just too passive. I think I was a little nervous,” Jones said. “The second half I definitely wanted to be more assertive because I felt like the first half I was just a guy out there not giving the team enough.”

Jones’ performance late showed that he’s still a valuable piece for a program headed for its first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2007-08 season. His experience over the past three and a half seasons can’t be discounted.

“He’s a veteran that knows he can play,” Crean said. “He’s been through the battles. There should be no reason to be tentative.”

Still, questions will continue to be asked about his role moving forward. Jones has been perhaps the most discussed and debated player among fans in recent memory. He even heard a smattering of boos in a game earlier this season that he says served as motivation.

“I’ve been doubted and hated on ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “Things like that have motivated me to go beyond what people expect.

“People said I was too skinny to play big Division I basketball. Proved them wrong. People said I couldn’t go a game without a turnover. That’s two games I’ve proved them wrong. Everything that I hear, the boos, all that, it motivates me to levels that you don’t even understand.”

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  • Aidan

    Great post! I agree completely with VJIII Being more of a role player. In transition, I feel like he thinks he is a stronger ball handler then he is and gets out of control. I would feel comfortable with him running a Half Court O, but not a Full Cout O. He is a great Senior, and I really hope he has a phenomenal game in March!

  • IUMIKE1

    Doesn’t UM play a 1-3-1 zone sometimes ? They may not do the exact same things out of it but seems like they play 1-3-1 part of the time.

  • IUMIKE1

    Doesn’t UM play a 1-3-1 zone sometimes ? They may not do the exact same things out of it but seems like they play 1-3-1 part of the time.

  • IUMIKE1

    After the game up in Mackey I’m sure that the rematch has been REcircled on the schedule and is in the back of their mind almost all the time, especially the two starters that lost their starting position for a while after that game.

  • IUMIKE1

     Agree and have wondered the same thing on more than one occasion and I read his response to this particular comment of yours before I typed this.

  • MillaRed

    Plane you are a savvy old ITH vet. We can agree to disagree from time to time. Makes it interesting.

    I forgot about that “Indiana will suck” comment. My sympathies immediately diminished,

  • MillaRed

     We did have 6 days though C&C. I thought we would handle it better than…….who am I kidding? We didn’t handle it at all. I was hoping for a better game plan. But as others have noted, maybe Jordy just wasn’t cut out to deal with it.

  • IU78

    I know this observation could reveal my age somewhat, but is CTC doing a great imitation of Gertrude and Heathcliff in the background of the photo or what:)

  • calbert40

    It is hard to “root” for either of my two least favorite teams, but I was actually pulling for PUke. 

    We beat them on the road, and if they beat Illinois, that helps push PUke’s RPI higher thus helping us.

  • calbert40

    It is hard to “root” for either of my two least favorite teams, but I was actually pulling for PUke. 

    We beat them on the road, and if they beat Illinois, that helps push PUke’s RPI higher thus helping us.

  • MillaRed

     I’m not taking sides here, but I will throw an opinion at you C&C. IMO, this game was by no means a team win. This was a win gift-wrapped by Cody Zeller and Verdell Jones. Furthermore, 75% of their baskets were either one on one moves or offensive rebounds. Neither of which were drawn up by the coach.

    We did not handle the 1-3-1 at all with a week to prepare. We did very little if any scoring after timeouts. And gave up 6 and 8-0 runs at two points of the game.

    CTC did his part, but I am not chalking it up as a coach’s win at all.

    With that being said, very happy with the W. And not disappointed with anyone. But every game has its critics. Whether we like them or not.

  • IndianaPride

    After what Jones and Pritchard have been through, it’s hard to be critical…

  • 888

    Good point.  Remy should have played some minutes. I dont see how jordys minutes dont get affected next year if CTC plays the best player available. These guys coming in can play for real. I think Mo comes back able to go and man who do you play.

  • 888

    Good point.  Remy should have played some minutes. I dont see how jordys minutes dont get affected next year if CTC plays the best player available. These guys coming in can play for real. I think Mo comes back able to go and man who do you play.

  • Walt

    Agree with C&C, you have some good insightful info in your posts; but as a coach (CTC) maybe he sees a lot in practices, etc than we do. Don’t feel at all that Hulls should be outed for Remy.  Verdell put us on his shoulders last night and won the game with his 3 baskets.  Did you feel VO should have been in there instead? Kokomo, it was a win, just question the value of some of your points above.Just an opinion.

  • Kentc

    Sad that anyone in Assembly Hall would boo any IU player.  Mackey Arena, yes.  The hall, no.

  • Southport65

    Boy you guys like to complain and question CTC and players abilities. This TEAM has found 20 different ways to win those games. That is 20 Wins!!! How many of you actually
    thought IU would win 20 games? Not only do they have 20 wins but in the last 20 years only 2 teams have gotten to 20 wins sooner. This Coach and all these players deserve a little credit for winning. It would not hurt some of you arm chair coaches to write some positive comments. We are seeing something amazing from this group and it is time some of you acted like fans.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    i as many have been hard on verdell this season, good game for you last night. when he plays under control,doesn’t try to force the issue and feeds the post[ hello CZ] he is a very effective player. we will need him down the stretch and in to tournament play. now lets beat iowa and run the table these next 5 games. if you would have told me we would 20-6 right now i would be giddy. giddy i am!! go IU!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    i as many have been hard on verdell this season, good game for you last night. when he plays under control,doesn’t try to force the issue and feeds the post[ hello CZ] he is a very effective player. we will need him down the stretch and in to tournament play. now lets beat iowa and run the table these next 5 games. if you would have told me we would 20-6 right now i would be giddy. giddy i am!! go IU!

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Two least favorite teams?  I hate them both as well.  But I’ve got to fit the Buckeyes in there somewhere.

    I bought tickets to the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago one year only to see us bounced by Illinois before my games took place.  I think that was the 06-07 year?  I’ll never forgive them for ruining my weekend.  Not where the hate began, but it might be where it reached its apex.

  • Diesel

    Perfect analysis.

  • SS8941

    “I do not like the way DM was used when a kid like AE or Remy could have developed.” Right on brother

  • SS8941

    I have a feeling that that crowd will be UK level. Even though Purdue isn’t that good and we beat them soundly last time. Everyone still wants to show Purdue and their obnoxious fans who runs this state as well as seeing our seniors leave on the right note. 

  • Kelin Blab

    Just like Jordan Hulls

  • SS8941

    There should be no empty seats in the Hall during the senior speeches. These guys deserve our respect.

  • SS8941

    After Purdue’s NCAA dreams are destroyed, Verdell Jones should get up to the mic on senior night and say… 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omc4HnN7S_U

  • Butch

    Hat’s off to Verdell.  Your an outstanding young man and ball player.  Those booing should have been put out of assembly hall!

  • CreamandCrimson

    I guess I am having a very hard time making this point clear.  I was not talking about this game or our lack of effectiveness against the 1-3-1.  I was not making excuses for any of our players or any of our coaches. 

    I was responding to the original post which said “any team watching is going to go 1-3-1 against us”.  I responded by saying other teams (Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, etc.) don’t routinely practice the 1-3-1 and wouldn’t be near as effective playing it against us as Northwestern because they don’t routinely practice it.  That’s all.  I thought IU was very ineffective against it but I don’t see it being run against us by every future opponent because of that.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Don’t worry…there are no sided to take.  This isn’t an argument.  I was merely asking a question and Joe answered it well.  I respect everyone on here and I’m not ripping him or calling him a hater or an unfair critic or anything like that.  Joe has good posts and I enjoy reading them.  He is a bit more critical than most (again, that’s fine) and I was just looking for some additional insight on his perspective.

  • SCHoosier

    good points…the 1-3-1 is tougher to attack cause the wing 3’s are not available as they are agaisnt the 2-3 zone. However..a quick guard can pentrate and dish to the corners or attackers from the corner…Yogi will handle that easily and have the pull-up besides. Against a 2-3 I love Hulls/Roth  on the wing though.

  • IUJeff

    Cannot wait for VJ’s last game in AH to be a W over PU. Way to go VJ !! You were clutch.

  • Dstrase

    Jones has always been a good player for IU when he plays within his game. Last night he played within his game. No excuse for booing any IU player.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    Hulls was brutal and he is not exempt from the bench for replacement by a FR.  we will see that next year when Yogi arrives.

    VJ played well enough in his limited role for us to win.  he did not put us on his shoulders, CZ did.  I feel VO and VJ should have been in the game with Remy, CW and CZ.  WS and Hulls should have been the main 7 in the rotation against that 1-3-1 zone.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    I really believe CTC is making strides as a head coach.  I am sure in his defense, he has had to spend the last 3 years trying to teach skills and somehow produce a team on the floor that is competitive.

    Now we have talent and he has proven he can recruit and maintain talent in the program.  I was early to a game this season and was ablsolutely amazed at their pre-game workout.  A lot of action and a lot of energy.  I was extremely impressed.  I have been impressed with his recruiting.  I am tickled that we are 20-6 at the end of the day.

    But from this point on, we as fans will looks at this program differently.  We are a 20+ W a year program again and a Top20 program too.  Possibly a Top 10 program within a couple years.  With that will come more critics of in game adjustments by the coaching staff.  there will be no more 20+ losses on the road.  We will see losses that come down to a few stops and a few buckets on offense.

    I am probably ahead of the curve because I already approach the program this way.  We are winning now.  yes we have been below par and  we can make a case for praising CTC because we are winning again.  I just look at things a little differently because like most coaches, I am never satisfied wanting to see improvements.

    With that said, I see some improvements in CTC’s coaching in game, something he probably hasn’t had to do a lot of with the lead the last 4 years.  In all honsesty he is probably a little rusty in that area.  But, I do see improvements in that aspect of his coaching. 

    From here on out the rest of this season and into the future, for IU to win championships, CTC will have to be sharp in all aspects of coaching.

    yes, CTC has delivered this program to success rising from the ashes to the point we are now and I thank him for that.  But as a former collegiate athlete, coach and always as a fan, I want to win.  When I watched IU win it all in 1987, it was magical for me, the fans, the state and the university.  I want everyone associated with IU basketball to feel that again.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    I suppose that IU played pefectly then?

  • dssnyder1

    perfect game? not even close. shurna lit up the defense. hulls struggled mightily. did remy play ? nope. I’m not looking for perfection, just a W. I’ll take my glass thats half full, not half empty. Sent from my Droid Charge on Verizon 4GLTE

  • CreamandCrimson

    Very well said and I appreciate you having a civil, well thought out back and forth with me (it’s a rarity on the Internet).  I was interested in your perspective and I have a much better understanding of where you are coming from.  You are not just criticizing to be negative and I misunderstood that before. 

    I agree with your points.  I definitely see some of the negatives with CTC and I have also seen improvements in both this team (undeniable) and his in-game coaching and program management.  You are dead-on, expectations have now shifted and we will view things differently moving forward.  It’s very true, CTC will have to be sharp in all aspects for us to reach the level we all know is possible…winning titles again.  

  • Hf2436

    I think CZ was more of a benefactor of being the only big in the game. NW had no one to stay with him. It was more of what NW couldn’t do than what CZ forced them into accepting.

  • Mister Slippery

    Very nice apologetic for yourself and others, pretending you were never part of the rising chorus of constant critcism that the idiots who are shaming The AH with boos latched onto. Get over yourself, self-appointed “rational” fan. Go back and read the boards, compare it to Verdell’s actual play and tell me with a straight face it was no different than any other player, and you are a liar. A lot of the fan base has crucified the kid and I resent that IU has descended into a program that boos its own players and I resent the role that some, not all, here have played.