Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Iowa

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(Photo credit: Associated Press)

Indiana closed out 2012 on Monday afternoon with a critical 69-65 road win at Iowa to open the Big Ten season. Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Hoosiers’ 13th win of the season:

· This was IU’s most important win so far: Yes, wins over Georgetown and North Carolina might be “better” in terms of bolstering the NCAA Tournament resume, but given how the Hoosiers started out on the road in the Big Ten a season ago (1-5), it’s fair to call this the most important win so far this season. Indiana, despite its resurgence in 2011-2012 that culminated with a Sweet 16 appearance, finished just 3-6 away from Assembly Hall in conference play. For a team with Big Ten title aspirations, 3-6 isn’t going to get the job done. Even though it was just the first conference game, a loss in Iowa City could have ultimately been the difference between a conference title and finishing as a runner-up. The performance wasn’t pretty, but it builds confidence going into the next three road games, which are games IU needs to take: Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue.

· Christian Watford wasn’t the difference, but he was critical: Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are Indiana’s two best players, but in yesterday’s first half, Christian Watford came up big. The 6-foot-9 forward from Birmingham, who has been notoriously inconsistent throughout his career, had eight points and four rebounds in 15 first half minutes. And as his teammates shot just 1-of-5 from distance in the first half, Watford hit 2-of-3 of his attempts from beyond the arc. Both were in critical spots. After a shaky start that included a missed shot by Zeller followed by a Zeller turnover, Watford knocked in the game’s first points on IU’s third possession. Watford’s second trey gave IU its largest lead of the first half at 29-20 at the 3:11 mark. While it’s impossible to know what to expect from Watford on a game-to-game basis, IU has to be hopeful that yesterday’s performance is the norm rather than the exception.

· Jordan Hulls shot 0-for-10 and still played winning basketball: The same can’t be said for Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble, who shot 1-of-14 and would have been far better served getting the ball to Aaron White and Mike Gesell rather than forcing contested shots. Hulls, on the other hand, took mostly shots in the flow of the offense that just weren’t falling. And despite going scoreless, he filled out the rest of the stat sheet nicely in 22 minutes: six assists, three rebounds, two steals and no turnovers. It’ll be a shock if Hulls goes scoreless again the rest of the way, but Monday afternoon showed that he can still be a productive player even without scoring.

· IU’s bench is still a work in progress: Beyond Remy Abell and Will Sheehey, who are considered starters by Tom Crean, Indiana didn’t get much from its bench. In 14 minutes, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Derek Elston and Jeremy Hollowell combined to go for 0-for-2 from the field, grab two rebounds, block two shots and commit three turnovers. Hollowell, despite airballing his only field goal attempt, did make a positive impact with two blocked shots, one of which kept the Iowa deficit at three with under nine minutes to play. The lack of scoring shouldn’t be much of a concern, but IU needs more rebounding from this group and fewer careless mistakes.

· Zeller, Ferrell and Oladipo come up big when it counts: It’s refreshing to see Victor Oladipo get the national recognition he deserves. He’s been Indiana’s best player through 14 games and his impact on yesterday’s game was notable in several areas. He notched his first career double-double and took Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer, out of the game. Zeller, despite a rocky start, rebounded to score 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. We’ll never know if all of the preseason hype and attention started to wear on Zeller, but despite being labeled by some as a disappointment, his scoring and rebounding numbers are both up over last season. And Ferrell, in his first road game, put together this line: nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and three turnovers. Yogi still goes into the air too frequently without anywhere to go, but with IU struggling to find offense yesterday, he was more aggressive looking for his shot in a hostile environment that would have swallowed up many freshmen.

  • hoosier13

    I agree with the bit on hulls being somewhat productive even though he wasnt scoring. However, I really dont think we can afford to have him out there for so long when hes shooting so poorly. He is such a defensive liability that it hurts us, imo. I dont mean to be insulting because I think when he is on he is one of the best guards in the country. Just an observation

  • hoosier13

    I agree with the bit on hulls being somewhat productive even though he wasnt scoring. However, I really dont think we can afford to have him out there for so long when hes shooting so poorly. He is such a defensive liability that it hurts us, imo. I dont mean to be insulting because I think when he is on he is one of the best guards in the country. Just an observation

  • JBesthoosierboy

    CW is not playing up to his potential I’d like to see him do more I think this team could be completely unstoppable if he puts up good consistant numbers every game

  • Django

    Very nice summary! I just wish Cody was better at finishing at the rim when he drives. He just doesn’t seem to go to the rim with authority, but I did not realize his scoring and rebounding avgs are better than last season at this time.

  • N71

    I think the development of the 3 freshman (Yogi/Jeremy/Hanner) is what’s really going to define our ceiling. Yogi is starting to get comfortable and showing how disruptive he can be with his speed/quickness. Hanner could take all season if not next to really get comfortable. Jeremy is the one that kills me though, he was going through the typical freshman adjustments/leaning curve and then sits 3 games for some BS he had nothing to do with. Now he takes a step backwards with his legs/conditioning in evidence of the air ball. The kid can shoot and that’s a fact, it had to be rust. I’m telling you, when the flame lights up, he can dominate a game but any little setback…there just isn’t any room for bad play when you’re top 5 and have Victor, Will, and CWat playing in front of you. I can’t wait until he’s found his groove which will probably be mid BigTen season now. He is a special, special player and I’m completely objective with 0 ties…just a fan that watched him here in Indy.

  • N71

    I think as a senior he must have the feeling that the season is long, I don’t need to prove anything right now, and when the time comes I’ll be ready. That time I imagine, we’re down 3 with less than a minute to go in the Sweet 16 against someone good like Gonzaga, he’ll take over if Victor doesn’t. CW get’s 2 key rebounds, get’s a tip back, hits the winning free throw to send us off to meet Michigan State in the round of 8.

  • paynilia

    1. What was with the 2-3 Zone that Crean kept going back to? I counted 7 possessions where we went zone, off of which Iowa scored or got to the line 6 times. If it was to protect Hulls from matchup problems, shouldn’t we just go with Remy/Yogi then?

    2. As “JBestHoosierBoy” mentioned, regardless of what the stats say: Zeller’s legs look really tired compared to last year. I’ve seen the dead-legs phenomenon become an issue with big guys who are adjusting to a more rigorous schedule- I wonder if a few days off would do him good?

    3- Agree with the other posters in that this team can get to the Sweet 16/Elite 8 with what we’re getting now. But Hollowell/Perea/Yogi’s development will dictate whether we’re deep enough for a Final 4 run.

  • paynilia

    1. What was with the 2-3 Zone that Crean kept going back to? I counted 7 possessions where we went zone, off of which Iowa scored or got to the line 6 times. If it was to protect Hulls from matchup problems, shouldn’t we just go with Remy/Yogi then?

    2. As “JBestHoosierBoy” mentioned, regardless of what the stats say: Zeller’s legs look really tired compared to last year. I’ve seen the dead-legs phenomenon become an issue with big guys who are adjusting to a more rigorous schedule- I wonder if a few days off would do him good?

    3- Agree with the other posters in that this team can get to the Sweet 16/Elite 8 with what we’re getting now. But Hollowell/Perea/Yogi’s development will dictate whether we’re deep enough for a Final 4 run.

  • Ole Man

    I don’t think in this game that Hulls was a defensive liability. Please correct me if I’m wrong. But I don’t recall his man doing much offensively. And he did have two steals. The line about “Hull’s defensive liabilities” is getting to be an old one.
    Yes, he has trouble with some players; but his defense is adequate to good most of the time. Plus, his NORMAL shooting and his obvious on-court leadership more than make up for whatever “liability” is perceived.
    But this is nothing but my opinion.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    In response to number 3, lets remember we are a long way away from the tournament. But keep in mind, if we win the Big Ten and get a one seed we will have the benefit of playing the Midwest regional games in Indianapolis to determine the Elite 8 and Final Four. Depending on who we are playing (ie., not Butler), that’s going to give us a very good chance of achieving a big part of what we hope to. The key now for IU is to win that Big Ten regular season title. In many ways, I thought we took a huge step toward that yesterday.

    Yogi’s development is a part of that. He flashed more ability to score against Iowa. The result is an offensive attack that is far more difficult to guard with him running it than any other (Hulls, Remy or Oladipo led). I thought we were missing that for a long stretch of the second half. Yogi played limited second half minutes, including being out for a key stretch up until we got down to the two minute mark, despite having a very good first half, especially in the final minutes. This prompted the zone from Iowa, adjusting to keep Yogi from beating them off the dribble and creating a numbers advantage. Crean appeared to be of the opinion that we would be better off with other options against their 2-3 zone. If he is right about that, Yogi needs to get comfortable against the zone. Really only Sheehey had an answer for their zone. That and Oladipo crashing the boards.

  • Kelin Blab

    When Watford plays well, Zeller is aggressive, and Yogi is looking for his shot, IU is a final 4 team….easily. Hulls, Vic, and Will are going to bring it every game and are pretty consistent….we go further when the other three starters are producing.

  • marcusgresham

    As for the bench being a “work in progress,” let’s look at it this way: despite Crean considering Sheehey and Abell as “starters,” they aren’t–they are the best 6th & 7th men in the country. Then consider the next three guys mentioned, Elston, Hollowell, and Mosquera-Perea. Elston is still rounding into form after missing time with an injury and still hasn’t gotten his shot back (and when he does we know what he’s capable of,) Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell were both playing their first conference games, one after sitting out a couple of games, the other still hasn’t even played a handful of college games. I think those three will be able to show relatively rapid improvement.

  • PDXHoosier

    CZ had 19 and 10, and some people still thought he had a bad game. Vic is our best all-around player, but CZ is the MVP of this team, no question.

  • PDXHoosier

    I have a feeling CWat will come up huge this year at some point. The CWat haters will just say “its about time”

  • PDXHoosier

    Yogi adds a dimension to our offense we haven’t had in a while. You have to take the good with the bad, but he has been solid so far, and will keep getting better.

  • PDXHoosier

    Yogi adds a dimension to our offense we haven’t had in a while. You have to take the good with the bad, but he has been solid so far, and will keep getting better.

  • PDXHoosier

    There is a reason most “experts” consider IU a favorite to win it all (along with Duke and UofL). If this team plays to its potential, like it did last March, they can beat anyone.

  • hoosier13

    No question that his normal shooting and leadership more than make up for it and that when he is even shooting anywhere near his normal clip he should be out there for a good amount of minutes. It wasnt so obvious that he was a defensive liability because we were playing so much zone (still beyond me why, anyone have an opinion on that?). But I dont think its fair to say he isnt a defensive liability. Brad stevens thought he was so much of defensive liability that he was willing to isolate Barlow (a walk on) and allow him to take the last shot since hulls was guarding him

  • SUNY_RIT_IU_Grad

    CW is my favorite Hoosier! He has contributed so much to this team since he arrived during the lean years. He has faced his share of adversity and naysayers, and yet he continues to contribute in positive ways both on and off the court… I am expecting big contributions from CW when we play Wisky, UM, MSU and the OSU. I am a big fan of CW and have enjoyed watching him play for our Hoosiers!

  • Kelin Blab

    We need a yogi like….in one of these coming classes.

  • SCHoosier

    Yogi is developing nicely…really took it to the hole…can not really afford lazy passes..especially at crunch time. Like the ball in his hands because he can hit the FT’s (altho he missed one at Iowa)Jordy must be aggressive with shooting the ball and I don’t mean getting into the paint..Steve Nash he is not.. Jordy needs help with some screens….the high ball screen now used is too easy to defend…and unless Hulls gets it kicked to him in transition there is nothing else in our half court offense that gives him a good look.. I liked Wat coming on the side screen for a little curl shot…its a waste to have him post up because he doesn’t have the hops to finish and never pump fakes…but he worked hard at Iowa..and IS critical to IU’s success. Zeller can be pushed around..he was in the first half…second half Iowa’s space eating 7 footer went to the bench and Cody dominated against a smaller man. He’ll have a quickness advantage over most teams in t he post…but man he got by with at least two travels. Will is money..and VO is our MVP right now. At crunch time we are not as deep as projected..so it will be Will, DE and Remy with the starting five..and HMP and JH picking up very selective minutes..

  • mike

    Hulls is particularly a defensive liability when paired with Yogi. When Vic is the other guard, team defense can help out and compensate. But when the two small guards are in there, I just cannot see how we can beat the B10 teams with long, athletic guards. How do we even contest their shots?

  • mike

    Hulls’ foul trouble actually helped us, IMO, because it forced Crean to go with Vic and Sheehey together, which makes us a much better defensive team. Look at how we outrebounded them, and look at how well Vic and Will defended the perimeter. Those things just do not happen when Yogi and Jordy are in there at the same time. I am really, really concerned about our B10 season due to Crean’s decision to play the two small guards together; I just don’t see how we can contest shots on the perimeter, as most B10 teams have at least one long, athletic guard. Jordy and Yogi can generate all the offense they can, but if they cannot stop the guys they guard, what does it matter? To me, the Georgetown and Butler games proved this point, and I am just amazed that Crean does not see this.

  • mike

    Hulls’ foul trouble actually helped us, IMO, because it forced Crean to go with Vic and Sheehey together, which makes us a much better defensive team. Look at how we outrebounded them, and look at how well Vic and Will defended the perimeter. Those things just do not happen when Yogi and Jordy are in there at the same time. I am really, really concerned about our B10 season due to Crean’s decision to play the two small guards together; I just don’t see how we can contest shots on the perimeter, as most B10 teams have at least one long, athletic guard. Jordy and Yogi can generate all the offense they can, but if they cannot stop the guys they guard, what does it matter? To me, the Georgetown and Butler games proved this point, and I am just amazed that Crean does not see this.

  • mike

    “Like it did last March” — that was with Vic and Will being on the court at the same time. This year, CTC has decided not to do that as much, and instead play two small guards together. IMO, that makes us worse defensively and that is why we’re not consistently playing at the same level as last March.

  • mike

    Look at Will’s numbers, relative to his minutes …. his scoring is really impressive, and it can get better. One gets the feeling he can get off his shot about whenever he wants. If VO and CZ leave at end of this year, I look for Will to lead the team in scoring, maybe even be All American next year. Just has to keep improving his ballhandling.

  • IUMIKE1

    The Iowa game was a perfect example of when Hulls’ shot isn’t dropping, and I don’t mean only on 0 for nights, that his minutes have to be limited cause there is not near as much there to offset his defensive liabilities. Hulls contributes in other ways besides scoring but that is one of his biggest assets and when it isn’t happening for him CTC has to coach accordingly, IMHO. Stevens isolated whoever Hulls was guarding several times and part of the time it was blatantly obvious that that was exactly what they were doing (e.g. the most important shot of the game). Stevens was never gonna come out and say that that was what they were doing but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that he was. Iowa didn’t do it as much as Butler did but they for sure ran more than one, basically clear out a side and let whoever Hulls is guarding drive to the rim, type of play.

  • Dick_Pepperfield

    Well it is a coaches job to combat these situations with help. Hulls is our best shooter. Taking him off the court because you are worried that his man might drive to the rim is NOT a reason to bench our best shooter. Period

  • Benhyoung14

    I’d agree its old….its about 2 years old. When he was a sophomore it made sense, but it doesn’t now. Like CTC said, he thought he passed up 4 or 5 shots that he should’ve taken. It prolly has more to do with his record in Carver-Hawkeye arena. I’m a lot more comfortable with Hulls handling the ball and being scoreless than Abell at this point. Jordy has improved more this season then I expected. I’m impressed.

  • Benhyoung14

    I’d agree its old….its about 2 years old. When he was a sophomore it made sense, but it doesn’t now. Like CTC said, he thought he passed up 4 or 5 shots that he should’ve taken. It prolly has more to do with his record in Carver-Hawkeye arena. I’m a lot more comfortable with Hulls handling the ball and being scoreless than Abell at this point. Jordy has improved more this season then I expected. I’m impressed.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Not sure I agree. He was getting mugged. At least he made his FTs.

    I was more frustrated with his hands on those early turnovers (very rare for him).

    I wish they’d get him the ball farther from the basket more. He’s so fast for a big man and that’s a huge advantage. I remember one play where he got the ball about four feet ouside the right block and took one dribble on a sweeping move into the lane and just abused that big Frosh from Iowa. I’d love to see more of that.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    I actually think Elston is not going to be much of an offensive weapon for us. Not that that’s a big deal, he just isn’t as good as our other options.

    IMO it would be great if he just embraced the idea of being that 8-12 minutes a game guy who comes in and board and plays D and takes an opportunistic shot or two. It’s really too late in his career for him to become an offensive focus. I think we need more guys to just do the dirty work. That should be HMP’s role this year too.

  • Benhyoung14

    It’s just a matter of this team jelling. We will by the end of Big Ten play. If Watford is scoring like he did in the Big Ten and NCAA tourny then we have 3 guys that can take over a game. We will be hard to stop.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    I think the play of CW is really the key to this team’s performance. Not that he’s the best player, but you have very little idea wht you’re going to get on any given night. He’s so inconsistent, and when he plays well, it opens up so many more options for the team in general and CZ in particular.

    So what if Crean tells him, “Kid, I’m starting Sheehey over you until I see consistent effort on the boards and on D”? I’m pretty sure that’s not Crean’s style, and I guess it might backfire. But what if it really hacks Wat off and lights a fire under his behind?

    I know he’s worried about making the next level, but let’s be honest, he’s not the world’s best athlete, and not a dude who’s that much of a threat to score off the dribble. If he’s going to have a solid 6-8 year NBA career he’s going to need to rebound and defend. Sure, he might carve out a spot solely as a 6’8″ guy who can shoot, but that seems like a long shot.

    Also, maybe the staff could sell him on how he could feast on second unit guys and have the offense run through him. And just cause you don’t start doesn’t mean you don’t finish.

    He seems like a kid who is really motivated by outside forces, and that might give him the kick in the butt he needs. It’s hardly got a snowball’s chance, but what does anybody think?

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    I think the play of CW is really the key to this team’s performance. Not that he’s the best player, but you have very little idea wht you’re going to get on any given night. He’s so inconsistent, and when he plays well, it opens up so many more options for the team in general and CZ in particular.

    So what if Crean tells him, “Kid, I’m starting Sheehey over you until I see consistent effort on the boards and on D”? I’m pretty sure that’s not Crean’s style, and I guess it might backfire. But what if it really hacks Wat off and lights a fire under his behind?

    I know he’s worried about making the next level, but let’s be honest, he’s not the world’s best athlete, and not a dude who’s that much of a threat to score off the dribble. If he’s going to have a solid 6-8 year NBA career he’s going to need to rebound and defend. Sure, he might carve out a spot solely as a 6’8″ guy who can shoot, but that seems like a long shot.

    Also, maybe the staff could sell him on how he could feast on second unit guys and have the offense run through him. And just cause you don’t start doesn’t mean you don’t finish.

    He seems like a kid who is really motivated by outside forces, and that might give him the kick in the butt he needs. It’s hardly got a snowball’s chance, but what does anybody think?

  • MisterSlippery

    Exactly. Opposing coaches isolate anyone they want against Jordy and they drive and score at will. He’s much better on defense than he is given credit, but the most glaring weakness is when an opposing guard is allowed to isolate on him and drive to the hoop. I don’t think you blame Jordy for that, though. He has the assignment and he does it to the best of his ability. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and they go at his sometimes. When opposing teams do that, we need to make adjustments.

  • STLII

    actually it is a reason to place a player on the pines. Coaches often take players off the court for defensive issues. Even if a player is hitting his normal percentage, but giving up baskets at the other end makes things a wash at best and your not getting ahead.
    I like Jordy for his court sense, toughness and shooting, but believe his minutes will be going downward over the next few months. CTC respects seniors and Jordy too much to bench him or not start him, but I think we will be seeing Abell getting more minutes in the big ten part of the schedule. Bottom line is championship teams have to play defense at a fairly high level.

  • IUMIKE1

    STLII’s response to your response to my comment…echo…echo

  • IUMIKE1

    STLII, thank you for saving me several keystrokes replying to Dick_. I think we see this topic pretty much the same.

  • Hckory

    The line isn’t getting old because it is true. Hulls if not hitting his 3 brings nothing to the team that we don’t already have. On defense he is non-exisetent and I personally am tired of the bloomington son getting overlooked as far as his lack of an overall game. Go back and watch that Iowa game with eyes open on him and notice he can only put his hands straight in the air to try and take a charge any time he is attacked. Also, remember he was backed down by a walk-on from Butler to lose us the game. Crean can only hide him for so long, he will get eaten alive by opponents in big ten play, just watch.

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