Hoosiers not just happy to be in Big Dance

  • 03/16/2012 11:34 am in

PORTLAND, Ore. — Midway through the first half against New Mexico State on Thursday night, Derek Elston found a wide open Cody Zeller under the basket.

Before Zeller had even dunked the ball, Elston turned around and trotted the other way, spinning his arm in the air as he yelled “Let’s go baby!”

There was no fear, no nerves. It was business as usual.

But in the days leading up to the Hoosiers’ first NCAA Tournament game in four years, some wondered if the stage would be too big for Indiana. There was talk that the Hoosiers were just happy to be here, that they were satisfied with their 25-8 regular season, that they would quietly go down in the first game.

I began to wonder how they would react under pressure. Nobody in the locker room had ever played on such a stage, and the players had all day Thursday to think about it.

When they took the court, though, the Hoosiers looked anything but nervous. They played like a focused team from the start, and they acted like they’d been here before.

“We didn’t just come here to take a couple pictures and leave,” Elston said.

It was the Indiana players that had been waiting for this opportunity the longest — guys like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford — that made the most of it when it finally came. Watford was hot early, and Hulls was even hotter late. In between 3-point binges was an Indiana layup drill against a poor New Mexico State defense. The Hoosiers had 11 bunnies in the second half alone.

After a while, it became clear: These guys were happy to be here, but they weren’t just happy to be here.

“Our approach was outstanding,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “They came out in attack mode. They followed the game plan. … It’s like so many other things, when you haven’t done it, the experience of going through it and getting involved and seeing that you can compete in this environment at this level — the guys noticed that, they felt that right away.”

The Hoosiers played loose, in large part, because they were treated like an underdog. Everybody seemed to be picking against them, nobody thought they could win away from Assembly Hall.

Plus, they wanted to shut up the Aggies’ talkative star, Wendell McKines.

“He said some things in the press conference earlier that were a little questionable,” said Indiana forward Will Sheehey. “So we took it upon ourselves that he didn’t get those touches. He said something about no mammal can guard him or something like that. So I guess Victor is not human.”

Talk, and the Hoosiers listen. They hear everything that’s being said, and they know that nobody believes in them.

The thing is, the doubt seems to bring this team closer together. The first one is out of the way, but the Hoosiers aren’t ready to be done. They’ve waited a long time to get here, and they want more.

“They’ve got some guys that are playing hungry right now,” said New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies. “They’re like a wounded animal losing Verdell. And they bonded together. It made them stronger.”

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  • ScubaHoosier

    Did anyone see what was written on CWat’s warmup T-shirt?

  • randy

    no, what was on his shirt?

  • jermhoosierfan

    I really like what their coach said about being a wounded animal.  It is probably more true than anyone knows.  I do expect a tough game with VCU.  I feel better about it now than I would have back in January when they turned the ball over quite a bit.  

  • MillaRed

    This McKines kid either has delusions of grandeur or he is just dumb. Or both.

  • Jcristee83

    something like “2012 NCAA tournament Finish the Fight” It was in the kravitz indy star article im pretty sure

  • Jcristee83

    something like “2012 NCAA tournament Finish the Fight” It was in the kravitz indy star article im pretty sure

  • Let me just say: How awesome is this?
    Not just our player’s attitudes…not just this team’s fight and energy…not just our coaches’ dedication and hardwork…not just this ITH community…but this entire year! How everyone related to IU came together when everyone outside of IU doubted us. How our team has perservered through the haters and commentators that said we’re too slow, too small, too unathletic… Look at us now.
    And the best thing is, we’re not done yet! This ride is just speeding up…

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I was very impressed last night. 

    1)  I was impressed with Hulls
    vision, aggressiveness, and lack of reservation.  He missed a shot that
    rimmed around and out in the first half then the ball was kicked right
    back to him and he fired it up right away and hit.  That showed there
    wasn’t a bit of fear in him.
    2)  Watford played like the tough,
    scoring leader he was against NC State, pUKe and OSU early in the year. 
    That was very nice to see.
    3)  Will and Vic started to make those bunnies and that made a huge difference. 
    4) 
    IU got good role player minutes from Remy, Roth, TP, and DE.  That’s
    gonna make a difference against teams like VCU and pUKe.
    5)  I didn’t think Zeller was playing strong for the first 30 minutes or so but then he turned it up the last ten minutes. 

    To
    think that IU didn’t even get the best game from their best player
    (Zeller) and they still were in total control start to finish gives me a
    lot of confidence going forward!  You see a lot of 4 and 5 seeds
    struggle in games, at least early in games, to take control and
    establish themselves as the “big boys” when playing lesser teams.  IU
    was start to finish the better team on the floor and I hope that gives
    the players and coaches as much confidence heading into the game with
    VCU as it gives me!

    Hoo Hoo Hoo . . . HOOSIERS!!!

  • NCAA Tourney 2012 Finish the Fight according to Indystar

  • It’sIndiana40

    Here kitty, kitty . . . let’s beat VCU and then shut up those Wildcat fans!!

  • JohnFromBeyond

    Anyone who thinks IU is happy to just be in the tournament is foolish. Most of the country is still out of touch with Indiana basketball. We’re back, but not everybody knows that yet. If we lose in this tournament, it won’t be because we weren’t hungry for more.

  • I would love to laugh in Wendell McKines face for saying such idiotic things, and then getting shut down (for the most part), the whole game by two players that he outweighs by 50 lbs.  I would laugh, and then run… He looked scary! 

    With that being over with, I would like to take the time to say that I really don’t mind the VCU match up.  I think we will have ample opportunity to get some deserted island open looks when we break the press, and, seeing as how we are the nations best (2nd best in stats, but #1 in my heart) 3 point shooting team… what could be scarier for Shaka Smart and the funky bunch?  I am sure there will be a point in the game where they get back to back steals by pressing, but I think Crean will watch and interpret the game film of the VCU/Wich St. game and see how Wichita State was able to break there press and flip the script on VCU for the majority of the second half.  I honestly feel that Crean will have a very precise plan to ensure that our guys handle the press and avoid getting trapped… I also feel that we have the players that will make smart decisions, take care of the ball, and knock down wide open shots once the VCU press gets broken. 

    Should be interesting… I will be counting the minutes until game time.  HOO HOO.

  • Peter

    Hulls was amazing last night. When he plays with confidence he is absolutely lights out… on the offensive end.

    We need to take a step back and rememeber how poorly he guards, well guards. That is VCU’s main strength. The outcome of the game will come down to how well we defend their guards. If we can stop the dribble or not. Stay grounded Hoosiers.

  • Mr_Howard8h

    Wendell McKines-
    “I said no mammal can guard me.. I will go in the pacific ocean and give the most dangerous whale a double double.”

    WHAT!?!?!?!!

  • Bucky

    Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gordon,

    SInce Indiana University won last night (Go Hoosiers!), I thought this would be a good day to contact you.  I’m updating my resume.  May I count on you for a professional reference?

    I hope you’re not still upset about that ice incident.  That was just some of the local fans trying to assist you.  It was warm in the gym, so they pelted you with ice to help you maintain your comfort. If you recall, I praised those fans after the game.

    I’m glad we cleared that up.  Remember:  as a fist, we are strong.

    Please give my regards to little Enron, or Ewok, or whatever you call him.  He’s such a scamp.

    Go IU!  I’ve been your #1 fan from the beginning!

    Bruce Weber

  • chiswede

    What did McKines say?

  • chiswede

    What did McKines say?

  • WhatsUpKnight

    yessir, tp was mr. intangible last night. stepped in and played his butt off, all the wile  allowing GaZeller to catch his breath and stay out of foul trouble. it’s funny, tp looks like a nice, harmless guy. but the dude’s really darn tough.

    and it looked like vo began crawling out of his late-season funk in the 2nd half, which is huge for iu.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    yessir, tp was mr. intangible last night. stepped in and played his butt off, all the wile  allowing GaZeller to catch his breath and stay out of foul trouble. it’s funny, tp looks like a nice, harmless guy. but the dude’s really darn tough.

    and it looked like vo began crawling out of his late-season funk in the 2nd half, which is huge for iu.

  • HoosierDawg

    1) my “other” team, BU, beat VCU last year in the tournament-don’t see any reason why my alma mater shouldn’t do the same this year.
    2) anyone else hear Sir Charles pick NMS because our backcourt is too unathletic?
    3) assume espn headline reads “Aggies upset by Hoosiers” today.
    4) also assume espn morons will unanimously pick VCU to win tomorrow.

  • Walt

    Unathletic and no perimeter game–“Spitter Barkley” Again, he should go back to golf.

  • Mop Lady

    #datewithdestinyneworleans

  • Nazz52

    I’d like to see the Hoosiers press VCU.
    Teams that like to press, don’t usually like being pressed.

  • Nazz52

    I hope the Hoosiers can turn on the defense against VCU.

  • Nazz52

    I hope the Hoosiers can turn on the defense against VCU.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    i heard hubert davis this morning pick vcu. hubert, did you even watch either of the games? surely you must have fallen asleep around 9:30.

  • SCHoosier

    Huuummm..he’d be a nice snack for an Orca..actually IU defense took a pretty good bite out of him last night!

  • SCHoosier

    Careful what you ask for..have you seen UK lately..Davis is polishing off his offensive games with 3’s..sideline jumpers and drives to the bucket along with everything else. Hopefully next year Cody will do the same while Davis is playing in the NBA.

  • SCHoosier

    Has an attitude problem..but I’ll tell ya..he knew what to do with the ball when he got it. Problem was his guards wre throwing it to IU more than him…he stuck in it there when he had the chance. Kid looked lazy..should shed a few pounds to be quicker..but he’s tough enuff to play at the next level I do believe. Just glad we put a sock in his mouth. (Well we probably didn’t) He does play somewhat like Greene of MSU…but can’t come close as a person.

  • SCHoosier

    Has an attitude problem..but I’ll tell ya..he knew what to do with the ball when he got it. Problem was his guards wre throwing it to IU more than him…he stuck in it there when he had the chance. Kid looked lazy..should shed a few pounds to be quicker..but he’s tough enuff to play at the next level I do believe. Just glad we put a sock in his mouth. (Well we probably didn’t) He does play somewhat like Greene of MSU…but can’t come close as a person.

  • cpmichae

    I thought Zeller was strong defensively the entire contest. I was impressed and pleased with his steals and his ability to defend without fouling. I also thought he passed the ball well in the first half, which opened up the floor for our sharpshooters. Granted, he didn’t pick up a lot of first half points, but I thought his presence was well established. Also, how about the defensive job Will and Vic did on McKines? Wasn’t that fun to watch? Will was a beast the entire game on the defensive end. Man oh man, how great of a pick up were those two recruits!

  • cpmichae

    To Hulls’ credit, I felt he played a very good defensive game last night. I was gushing about our defense all game. They do appear to be getting better, as a whole on the defensive end, and at the right time.

  • marionhoosier

    If the Hoosiers continue to shoot well I think they will be fine.  Indiana put up 78 last night and VCU put up 62 on Wichita State.  I didn’t think Wichita State looked as good as the experts made them sound.  VCU will have to do more on defense and be able to score more than 62 to beat IU.   

  • Sgrantm

    Saw it but couldn’t read it — I can’t read 🙁 — what did it say?

  • plane1972

    Keep praying Charles bets against us. The minute he bets for us, we will lose.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah.  I was referring more to him not going up strong offensively for the first 2/3 of the game or so but then towards the end of the game he started to go up with more of a purpose.  

  • Derbus

    Cody was getting thrown around underneath and no fouls were called.  He could have got 6 more points at the charity stripe! 

  • Kenneth234

    I agree with you on everything you said but wanted to add how important I felt it was that Zeller stepped out to the mid range and hit his uncontested jump shot.  I was thinking that if necessary he may have to show that with the lumber that NMSt had inside.  Just for the purpose of getting them away from the bucket so that he could face up and drive it on their big men. 

    I wasn’t sure how consistent he could hit it, but he did hit that first one,  and then never went back to it.  But that was probably because they didn’t really need it all that much because everyone was getting good looks on offense. 

  • HoosierDavey

    So we respond well when people doubt…ok…hey Hoosiers, the world is saying you will get beat by VCU, that you can’t beat the HAVOC, that you are still not believable.  What will you do about that?

  • Kenneth234

    Here are my key for IU to get a win tomorrow.1.  We need to force them into a low shooting % and control the boards on the defensive end.  This will keep them from being able to set up their press.2.  We need to be decisive and strong with the ball when the double team comes and the guy recieving the pass needs to come to the ball.  After the catch (I watched Drexel do this to them effectively but feel we are more capable of doing it than they were) hold the ball for about a 2 count, screen for a player to free somone up to flash into an open spot on the court, hit the cutter and allow them to make the intellegent basketball play (shoot, drive, or pass out to start the half court offense or for a wide open 3).  3.  We have to get back on change of possessions on every trip because they try to run off made baskets too.  Forcing them into a half court game on thier end.  If we do these three things and don’t shoot a low % ourselves, we should have very few problems with VCU. 

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah. We were having a conversation last week before the tournament about why Zeller had stopped shooting from the outside when he went to IU? He was a threat to shoot to 17-18 feet in college and that will keep defenses guessing in college! Just look at A Davis and how much he’s improved since he’s started to improve his outside shot! I’m glad Zeller showed that threat right away!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah. We were having a conversation last week before the tournament about why Zeller had stopped shooting from the outside when he went to IU? He was a threat to shoot to 17-18 feet in college and that will keep defenses guessing in college! Just look at A Davis and how much he’s improved since he’s started to improve his outside shot! I’m glad Zeller showed that threat right away!

  • marcusgresham

    What did that kid say?  I keep seeing references to it here but I don’t know what it was.

  • MillaRed

    Did these guys run anything? They either dumped it down low or penetrated and shot. No set plays.

    When McKines gave that shot fake and drained a 3 I realized he had skills. Vic did not put up good numbers but he had McKines frustrated on D.