Watford’s play a big reason why Hoosiers are back on top

IUNebITH0017Sometimes he gets lost in the box score because of the seasons Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are having, but it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore Christian Watford.

A look at the numbers: Watford has scored in double figures in all 12 Big Ten games, and in 15 straight games overall. During that stretch, he’s pulled down at least eight rebounds on eight occasions, and he has two double-doubles. Dating back to last season, Watford has scored in double figures in 17 straight Big Ten games.

In Wednesday night’s 76-47 win over Nebraska, it was more of the same from the senior forward. Watford had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.

There are many reasons why the Hoosiers have returned to the No. 1 spot in the rankings, but Watford’s prowess on the defensive glass and acceptance of his role is one of the primary ones.

“He has been playing with a lot of confidence,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. “I think it comes off of his defensive rebounding. You get a couple of boards, a couple of assists, you get a good feel for the game from the start, and that’s when I think shots are going in for him.”

Earlier in the season, I criticized Watford for too often being a ball stopper. The Hoosiers displayed good movement on offense, but the ball would hit Watford’s hands and the movement would stop as he jab-stepped and contemplated which one-on-one move he wanted to go to.

That isn’t happening anymore.

“He’s come a long, long way,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “When he’s consistent, he’s really, really good. What he’s learned is he has really good teammates that he can make better and they can make him better. When they’re locked in defensively, great things happen.”

Along the same lines, Watford isn’t forcing shots. He’s making strong moves in the post and shooting open 3-pointers off the trail or on a swing. Watford made the biggest shot during the Crean era, but if he wants to be part of the ultimate prize, he had to make personal sacrifices.

If Watford keeps playing like he has recently, it’s hard to see Indiana losing anytime soon.

“He has high personal goals, and he’s a part of very high team goals,” Crean said. “And I think it’s coming in his play.”

Notes

· Zeller’s short night: Cody Zeller led all scorers with 16 points, but he played only 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Zeller had just three points at the half, but piled up 13 points in the second half. He also was responsible for getting Nebraska big men Brandon Ubel and Andre Almeida in early foul trouble.

· Slow start: The Hoosiers started extremely slow and led just 27-18 at halftime, with 13 of their 27 points coming from the foul line. Crean said some players were concerned with Indiana’s lack of scoring in the first 20 minutes. He wasn’t.

“A couple of the guys mentioned we only had ‘X’ amount of points,” Crean said. “We’re not trying to set records. We’re trying to win a national championship.”

· Not first time at the Hall for Miles: Wednesday night marked the first time Nebraska coach Tim Miles visited Assembly Hall as a coach. But that doesn’t mean he hadn’t been in the arena before.

“I came as a college kid, too,” Miles said, smiling. “I snuck in.”

Despite the loss, Miles enjoyed his trip to Bloomington. He also called Indiana “as good a team as I’ve seen in a long, long, long time. Not just this year.”

“It’s a very cool environment,” Miles said. “I brought my son. That was a lot of fun. Great fans. Last night, we filmed practice. We came in to watch practice today, and it just brought back memories of being a little kid watching IU games with Bobby Knight out there on CBS. It brought back some pretty cool childhood memories.”

  • jmoney

    Miles sounds like a very classy guy. Hopefully he will have a bright future in Nebrsska.

  • Effinsixtyfour

    To all of you out there who keep harping on the “Watford’s an inconsistent player” theme; double figures in all twelve Big Ten games. Really happy for Christian this year. Keep it up, buddy.

  • http://twitter.com/drewlyon__ Drew Lyon

    Yeah. His only bad game, in my opinion, was against Illinois. He has been Mr. Consistent pretty much this whole season though. Gotta love that.

  • iuoiu

    And the dude is absolute money from the line and behind the arc too – he’s almost got a complete game going on the offensive end.

  • HoosierDawg

    …shall we say “brighter than pu” to be more specific?

  • CreamandCrimson

    Many of us (myself sometimes included) for his inconsistent play and his propensity to disappear from games at times. I feel like these criticisms were justified and it wasn’t just blindly blaming one guy for whatever troubles Indiana had in a particular game. However, this season, that has changed. As the article mentions (well done Justin), Watford has become a consistent player and he is filling his role very nicely.

    If he can keep up this play for the rest of the season, I feel really good about our chances.

  • SCHoosier

    Wat is starting to get some spotlighted coverage during the national TV games..great for him and the team..Christian is very deserving. I think Crean finally realized that IU could not make its half court offense effective without Wat scoring down low and getting to the line (he use to have to drive-dribble from the elbow which was NOT effective) IU is now running plays they never used in the pre-conference season. (Cody and Wat feeding one another from a high post etc.)
    re: Coach Miles..he said “I brought my son” (to A-Hall.) That sort of sez it all. Good luck to him building the Huskers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/blair.mckee Blair McKee

    I think that is the first time I have heard anybody on the team, coach or player state the obvious: The goal this season is a national championship. I hate to say it, but anything less than a FF appearance would be a let-down. They are capable.

  • HoosierTrav

    The CWat progression from last year is nearly identical to this seasons. It seems as though he gets really efficient at the best possible time. Lets hope he keeps this up bc if he does, we will win the NC. I have no doubt in my mind that we are the team to beat come March. This team is hitting its stride at the perfect time. Banner #6 will be the hardest one to get, then its snowball effect afterwards.

  • HoosierJiminCA

    CWat is one of those players that is not going to toot his own horn and is soft spoken in postgame comments… leave that to VO and CZ… but, he has come alive, and is playing like the player we all know he is, deadly 3 pt shooter, 80+ % from FT line, and very efficient defensive rebounder, since the “real season” ( Big 10 ) started… I often felt he was almost bored with the non-conference games when CTC was doing a lot substituting to find out who was who…. and probably could have scored a lot more pts. if they had been required…. they weren’t, lets be honest, exception of IL, still an NBA player if you ask me….

  • http://www.facebook.com/ken.bergmann2 Ken Bergmann

    “A couple of the guys mentioned we only had ‘X’ amount of points,” Crean
    said. “We’re not trying to set records. We’re trying to win a national
    championship.”
    Yes!

  • Daren Collentine

    I have never seen a player that is so automatic from one spot(actually two) on the floor. When he catches the ball on either wing I just assume its three points for IU. Hopefully teams won’t ever figure that out. He shot one from the corner against Nebraska and it just seemed so unnatural. Anyways, I think that he is our key to beating Michigan State. If he can hit from outside that will stretch their bigs and give us a shot to score in the paint.

  • Daren Collentine

    He has also been an absolute beast on the boards this year.

  • Daren Collentine

    He has also been an absolute beast on the boards this year.

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