Watford’s D, rebounding help fuel IU’s tenth Big Ten win

  • 02/29/2012 3:47 pm in

Christian Watford picked the perfect game to have a career night on the glass.

The 6-foot-9 junior from Birmingham, Ala. grabbed 14 rebounds against a Michigan State program that’s set the rebounding standard in the Big Ten for more than a decade.

The Spartans have dominated opponents on the offensive glass in conference play with a 37.1 offensive rebounding percentage. While their final offensive rebounding numbers last night were nearly right in line with their season average, Michigan State managed zero second chance points in their 70-55 loss to Indiana at Assembly Hall.

“We knew they were going to come,” Watford said. “I just wanted to be aggressive and get after it on the rebounds.”

And get after it he did.

Not only did Watford change the game on the glass, he started the game guarding Michigan State point guard Keith Appling and then asked to switch to forward Draymond Green early in the second half.

“I think I was doing a pretty good job on Appling using my length,” Watford said. “But on Draymond, I just wanted to try to make things tough for him.”

Green finished with a game-high 29 points, but had to work harder down the stretch and seemed to tire down due to Watford’s effort.

“The job Christian Watford did defensively is where I would start with talking about him,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “Obviously he had a double-double, but the eight deflections, the job he did on Keith Appling, then the job of going in to Draymond Green, I thought that was big.

“He’s a very, very smart player, extremely smart, but again, the story of the game for him, outside of the defense on Keith, was the rebounding.”

Tom Izzo admitted that Michigan State tried to ride Green all night, but said that his star senior began to wear down in the game’s final minutes.

“Hell of a performance by a very, very good player,” Izzo said. “We beat him up. We played him 36 and it seemed like 40 minutes,” Izzo said.

Some of the credit for Green tiring late should go to Watford, who has risen to the occasion now against the likes of Green, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas with his defensive effort and rebounding. Those areas weren’t always a staple of Watford’s game during his first two seasons in Bloomington, but his improvement in both are prime examples of his maturity as a player.

Verdell Jones offered a light-hearted analysis of Watford’s play that drew a laugh in the postgame press conference, but also offered a glimpse into how close knit this group has become.

“I think Christian had 14 rebounds today, I don’t know when that’s ever happened,” Jones said with a smile. “I’m proud of him. He was busting his butt.”

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  • marcusgresham

    Dan Patrick should send the Dannettes to ice that guy.  From the veiled references they’ve made on the show, I don’t know that it’s really all that much of an act—I get the impression that they think he’s every bit the narcissistic schmuck he comes off as on the air.

  • marcusgresham

    Still loving this season, but allow me to briefly consider the future of the 2012-13 season….

    Strictly looking at defense:
    Zeller, a year stronger as the backstop
    Watford, an ever-improving defender as a senior
    Oladipo, potentially the B1G defensive POY
    Sheehey, capable of guarding any spot on the floor
    Abell, a guard with the lower body of a lineman
    Farrell, one of the quickest players in the conference
    Patterson, longer arms than the law
    Mosquera-Perea, may block shots with his forehead
    Jurkin, see Mosquera-Perea
    Creek, solid defender if he returns healthy

    I’d say the basketball team may allow fewer points than the football team but that sounds obvious.

  • CreamandCrimson

    You left off Hulls.  Oh, wait.  Seriously though…I want to give Hulls some credit because I think he played very effective defense against both Minnesota and Michigan State.  He isn’t going to be a good defender but I think he has been effective in the last couple of games.  I think we will all take that moving forward.

    You are right, next seasons team will have the potential to be elite on the defensive end.

  • Hairy Ball Screen

    I agree. Obviously the players in the NBA are better – there the best players from college or before one and dones, the ones good enough to skip college. But, to me, college basketball is a lot more local. You have more teams in more towns, you can grow up rooting for your mom or dad’s alma mater. There are also many more rivalries given the amount of teams. It’s just a much different, tighter-knit atmosphere, whereas NBA is more regional. I also like all of the local flavor of the mascots, fight songs, etc… Plus, as a student and a graduate, you get to root for an organization you were actually a part of. Of course, I tend to be a fan of the smaller, local places and things in general.

  • Hairy Ball Screen

    I agree. Obviously the players in the NBA are better – there the best players from college or before one and dones, the ones good enough to skip college. But, to me, college basketball is a lot more local. You have more teams in more towns, you can grow up rooting for your mom or dad’s alma mater. There are also many more rivalries given the amount of teams. It’s just a much different, tighter-knit atmosphere, whereas NBA is more regional. I also like all of the local flavor of the mascots, fight songs, etc… Plus, as a student and a graduate, you get to root for an organization you were actually a part of. Of course, I tend to be a fan of the smaller, local places and things in general.

  • NervousWreck

    I agree with you there.  Saying “no one” was a bit of an exaggeration.  And “Lin-sanity” certainly helps the NBA.  It’s just frustrating when I feel little or no attention is paid to college basketball by some radio hosts, and instead they talk about nothing but the NFL combine and the NBA.  Then March Madness comes and everybody is an expert.  Just venting I guess lol.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    I will give CW an A for effort on the defensive boards.  That in itself turned the war on the glass in IU’s favor.

    After that I would give CW a C at best for his on ball and helpside defense.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    You left off Hulls who will be in your mix; DE who will be in your mix; Hollowell who will be in your mix and AE who will be in your mix.  That equals 14 total;

    Who is your odd man out?  14 players with 13 scholly allotment.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I take it you don’t like Cowherd as much as I do?

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Stroot, For some reason I think it can’t be before Oct 15th after 7:30.  There have been cases where schools can file for earlier dates due to conflicts but they have to be approved by the NCAA

  • CreanFaithful

    CWat doesn’t have the gas to stick with a PG like Appling for extended minutes and while Oplidipo did a very nice job sticking with Green, anytime Green caught it in the post it was a gimme.  I thought mixing it up was a solid strategy.

  • Derbus

    I am posting this on 2 ITH areas as a challenge:
    http://www.iuhoosiers.com/sports/m-baskbl/stats/2011-2012/teamcume.html
    I predict that if VJ and CW hit 50% of their shots or better for all of their B10 tourney game and all of their NCAA games, IU will make it to the Final 4! That is the impact of their game I see. That is what IU fans have been complaining about. CW is hitting .403% for the season and .386 for B10! R U kidding me?!!! VJ .413 is hitting for the season and .440 for the B10. Not exactly EPIC.

    Forget the deflections, free-throws, etc, take it to the CORE of shooting in Hoops games in College, deliver or be defeated and STOP drinking the4 Kool-Aid! imho

    ps if a moderator sidelines this post, then I guess the truth will not prevail . . .