It wasn’t pretty, but Hoosiers earn important conference win

IUMinnITH0005On Friday afternoon, Tom Crean talked about the challenge his team was going to face against a physically-imposing Minnesota team. The Hoosiers have seen tough, physical teams before, but the Gophers were on another level than Indiana’s other opponents thus far.

In the first half, though, No. 5 Indiana had few problems. The Hoosiers (15-1, 3-0) beat No. 8 Minnesota at its own game, and were incredibly effective on the offensive end. They couldn’t have played much better in the first 20 minutes.

“We knew the things we had to do were take care of the basketball, we had to guard the 3s, and we did none of it in the first half,” said a frustrated Minnesota coach Tubby Smith afterward.

But little did the Hoosiers know, they would be in a fight for their lives in the second half. Indiana lacked some of the intensity it showed to start of the game, and the Gophers (15-2, 3-1) looked like an entirely different team. They played like a team with nothing to lose, guarding Indiana all over the court and playing every bit as physical as Crean expected.

You wouldn’t have known the Hoosiers were prepared for it. At times in the second half, it they looked like they had never seen a press before. They turned the ball over, they stood around, and they failed to match Minnesota’s physicality.

“We didn’t attack it correctly. We just didn’t,” Crean said. “We got caught up in getting it down the court rather than how we were going to get it down the court. We didn’t do a great job with our spacing, we didn’t do a great job with the in-bounds. I’ll blame myself for not having enough screening. They were very, very physical. A couple times, it was hard to get open.”

It was more than just a couple times. The Gophers almost entirely erased a 23-point halftime deficit, cutting Indiana’s lead to just three with 19 seconds remaining. It was closer than it ever should have been, and it looked like the Hoosiers were melting down on their home floor.

At the end of the day, though, Indiana got a win against at top-10 team at home, and that cannot be forgotten. Sure, the Hoosiers have plenty of areas in which they must improve in the next two months, but that’s part of the beauty of what they were able to accomplish on Saturday. Even with their second half struggled and absolutely no production for their bench, the Hoosiers beat a very good Minnesota team.

And because of their unimpressive performance in the second half, you better believe the Hoosiers will come out with a chip on their shoulder Tuesday night against Wisconsin.

“A year ago, we’d have been ecstatic with that victory, and I want them to enjoy it,” Crean said. “But we have different expectation levels now.”

Those expectation levels also apply to the individual players, which makes it hard to celebrate another offensive explosion from Victor Oladipo and a display of continued growth from Yogi Ferrell. While we’ve come to expect the type of numbers we saw from Oladipo (20 points, six rebounds) and Ferrell (13 points, eight assists), it’s still fascinating to see how far each player has come.

“He’s hard to guard,” Smith said of Ferrell. “I thought we did a poor job of forcing him back to the help like we should, but he’s so quick he can make you think he’s going that way and get a guy off balance.”

As for Oladipo, he was his usual energetic self, though he did commit three costly fouls on 3-point shots in the second half. The junior guard has developed into quite the offensive weapon, but his defense wasn’t always strong on Saturday. And he knew it.

“As a leader on defense, I cannot make those mistakes,” he said. “To be honest, I felt like I almost blew the game away.”

But he didn’t, and that’s all that matters in the end. Sometimes in Big Ten basketball, it’s just good to escape with an ugly ‘W’, and that’s what this will probably be remembered as being.

Indiana can still get much better, and that is the scary thing.

Etc.

· #BenchMob struggles: The Hoosiers got only three points from their bench against Minnesota on Saturday, including zero points from sixth man Will Sheehey. Crean said afterward that Remy Abell didn’t practice until Thursday after getting “banged up” in Monday night’s win at Penn State.

· Free-throw woes continue: Indiana got to the foul line at will in the second half as Minnesota started to playing even more aggressive, but the Hoosiers failed to take full advantage of their opportunities. They were just 25-of-39 from the charity stripe in the game, which allowed the Gophers to climb back in. Jordan Hulls missed three straight free throws late, but managed to get his own rebound on one of the misses to put the game away.

“That’s when you’re living right,” Crean said of Hulls. “I think he needs a haircut, though. Great Clips must have been closed last night. He may have to have that cut by the Wisconsin game. He’s carrying around too much weight.”

· Watford plays well again: Christian Watford shot just 4-of-11 from the field, but he was solid for the Hoosiers yet again. He played one of his best defensive games of his career, while also contributing 14 points and nine boards.

“He battled,” Crean said. “Christian’s tough, he’s got an excellent spirit. When he plays well, it’s always like ‘hunt’ offense, don’t search for it. Sometimes when you’re searching, you make your mind up. When you’re hunting, he plays really well.”

  • Thomas

    A win is a win. I’ll remember this season and the one game they lost; just like the 1974-1975 team and their one loss. Who remembers how well Buckner, May, Benson, Laskowski, and Green played during each game. I’ll remember that team as the greatest IU team of all time (yeah, even better than the ’75-76 team) — at least until the end of this season. Then, we will see.

  • SCHoosier

    Admire VO stepping up and taking the responsibility for those three 3pt fouls…that was some real stupid play from a great player. I think Crean and staff will throw up when they see the tape on how IU lost their cool against the press. And it was a coaching problem that the same things were happening over and over. Wat played hard..but it seems when he goes all out on D & rebounding his shot suffers later in the game as it did today. 4-14 cause he doesn’t have the hops to finish. Not sure what happened to Wil today..he looked like a freshman…very tentative. My only concern about Jordy is that I think he only got one 3 pt look in the second half..one!?. What’s up with that. Funny..at half time I was really concerned about a letdown…AGAINST WISCONSIN Tuesday. Little did I think…..both teams played with a lot of old fashion guts at the end..each has reason to be proud AND disappointed..

  • sloan screen #45

    Victors fouls on three point shots were bad but I will take that because he goes all out all the time. The many mistakes by are senior leaders Watford and Hulls drive me insane. Sure Watford had 14 and 9 but poor passing leading guys into traps into the corner and missed free throws and atleast one weak attempt at a layup in the second half gave Minny a chance. Hulls turnovers and missed free throws kept Minny in the game too. Hope these guys regroup and give Wisky a 20+ point drubbing this week. They definately got one coming.

  • Ole Man

    They need to be doing walk throughs on game days; not scrimmages. They’re running out of gas in the second half.

  • Ole Man

    They need to be doing walk throughs on game days; not scrimmages. They’re running out of gas in the second half.

  • southport65

    Many of you didn’t even think IU could win this game. I heard all kind of comments that Minn. was to physical for IU to hang with and before the game would have been happy with a seven point win. No one excepted a 20 point win! This is a great team and they showed it in the 1st half and then got sloppy in the second some mental errors some just that Minn. is a good team and came back. When will Vic ever foul again like he did? Not this season. When will Jordan miss 2 foul shots in a row again? not this season or Watford miss foul shots like he did they are both great at the line or Will go pointless. The bench or lack of healthy bench players hurt us in this game. Most of the guys had to play a lot more minutes than usual and with MN. pressing us got a little tired but our bench will be back. This is a long season and IU is 15-1 only losing in overtime to a good Butler team but from some of these comments from last night you would think they were terrible. They will get better and learn from each game but don’t tell me they are not a great team because they are! I am old enough that I watched both the 1975 and 76 teams and all the other NC teams. Even the 75 and 76 teams had close games,overtime games and 2 point win games. When these kids learn how really good they are they will win in both 20 minute spans and watch out!

  • HoosierMitch

    Ealier in the season, the problem seemed to be with slow starts. The past two games have been the second half and the finish. When this team can put a full game together, it will be dangerous. I hope to see continued improvement, but am very happy where this team is at this point of the season. If they do keep improving, they have a very good chance to be something very special.

  • southport65

    Part of the reason that we slowed in the 2nd half was because our bench was not playing well. 3 points is all we got from the bench for the game and we still have 3 players hurt. This causes the starters to play more minutes and they don’t stay as fresh in the 2nd half. We will get better as our bench players improve. Why was Will wearing that black elbow brace? His defense was ok but his shot was way off. I hope he is not hurt also.

  • DeeLyle

    Just curious….why do think you know what’s best for this team? Do you have big time college coaching credentials?

  • shknqk

    Thanks for the generally positive posts and article.

    I might have to start putting a 24 hour moratorium on reading comments b/c the first responses mimic Yeat’s Second Coming, “the worst are full of passionate intensity,” and it just takes away from the joy of a special team.

  • shknqk

    Thanks for the generally positive posts and article.

    I might have to start putting a 24 hour moratorium on reading comments b/c the first responses mimic Yeat’s Second Coming, “the worst are full of passionate intensity,” and it just takes away from the joy of a special team.

  • A Train

    Not sure if it is the practice schedule but the team seems to have lost some of it’s energy and enthusiasm. This has been a team that really seems to have fun and genuinely enjoys playing with one another and something just seems to be missing recently.

    Still, all they set out to accomplish is well within their reach. I know many fans are concerned about our inability to put together complete games and I share that concern but good teams find a way to grind it out sometimes and this game falls into that bucket for me.

    The big difference this year is that our defense is much improved and allows the team to grind out tough wins when the offense struggles. Clearly, it is still a work in progress but fortunately there is a lot to work with. The Hoosiers best basketball lies in front of them.

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