Hoosiers moving on, learning from Connecticut loss

  • 11/26/2013 9:26 am in

As Indiana (5-1) steps onto the court tonight at Assembly Hall, one of the questions it must answer is simple. How will the Hoosiers react to their first loss of the season?

Last Friday, the Hoosiers fell to Connecticut, 59-58, and watched as the Huskies celebrated the 2K Sports Classic title on the court at Madison Square Garden. With such a young group, Indiana coach Tom Crean asked to team to shake off the loss and focus on an undefeated Evansville (5-0) over the past four days.

He has been satisfied with the reaction.

“There’s nobody walking in on Sunday that I didn’t think understood that we played a really good team and we came up short,” he said. “Our job is to define the reality of what could have been better and show them how we’re going to get to that point. This was a great learning experience for them to understand it never, ever comes down to the last play.”

On Friday night, the Hoosiers had their season-high in turnovers (19), they had foul trouble, they played an experienced and veteran team and did it in a unique environment. But what Crean took from the game was that his team did not fold under pressure. In fact, they had a chance to win the game twice in the final 15 seconds. And though the result did not go IU’s way, Crean realizes his team continues to have a lot to build on.

“The biggest thing you try to get across to a team is that every play matters, every possession matters. It sounds so corny but it’s absolutely true,” Crean said. “The proud fact is we played so hard and we could have been knocked out of the game numerous times on Friday night, especially with a young team, and I’ve coached teams a lot older than that that may not have been able to weather the storm in that environment, the way that it was. But that didn’t affect them.”

Indiana is now at its final test of its seven games in 18 days span. After tonight’s game with Evansville, the Hoosiers will not play again until Dec. 3, a Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup at Syracuse. But Crean never likes to look too far ahead.

“I think we’re absolutely getting it, I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Crean said. “They went inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound with a veteran team that really had changed their tempo for the game and slowed the tempo way down.

“Now we’ve got to take the next step of being a smarter team. I do think they are getting that, but it is going to take some time.”

Evansville hot heading into Bloomington

Crean wasn’t shy about it when he opened his pregame press conference on Monday: Evansville, he thinks, is one of the “best offensive teams” to come into Assembly Hall in some time.

Led by sophomore guard D.J. Balentine, who is averaging 29.6 points per game, the Purple Aces have not only averaged 90.2 points per game, but they also enter Assembly Hall as the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the nation (52.7 percent), an honor the Hoosiers have had for much of the past two seasons.

“Right now they’re shooting the ball with great confidence,” Crean said. “They are very good at finding their isolations and they’re very good at being relatively creative out of a couple of certain actions that they run that you have to be prepared for. I think it’s going to put a ton of pressure on us as a young group to go against that type of movement offensively.”

But what concerns Indiana is that “they are not hunting threes.” They don’t have to. Evansville, this season, is also shooting 57.6 percent from inside the arc and has only attempted 55 3-point shots. Facing such a high-efficiency offense, both Crean and his players noted they will have to have an extra ounce of energy on defense tonight.

“We know we’re going to have to get out on shooters, we’re going to have to stay down on shot fakes,” sophomore Yogi Ferrell said. “We’re just going to be in a defensive mindset. I feel like we’re going to have to go out there and our first mentality is going to have to be defense and everything else created from that defense.”

“Our guys will see more cuts, screens, flare screens, curls, they’ll see more of that in 10 minutes than they might see in three weeks, tomorrow,” Crean added. “They’re very good at that. They’re very, very good.”

Other notes

· Tickets still available: As of Monday evening, Indiana had not sold out tonight’s game. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the IU Ticket Office at (866) 487-7678. Costs are $15 for students, $20 for balcony seats rows nine and higher (plus a hot dog and soda), $26 for a balcony seat below the first nine rows and $40 for main level seats.

· Crean talks Maui Invitational: After it was announced that Indiana will play in the 2015 Maui Invitational with Chaminade, St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, UCLA, UNLV and Kansas, Crean admitted he’s already excited for the tournament.

He also said he’s been using the tournament as a recruiting tool, and now that he knows IU’s potential opponents, he said he’ll do it even more. “I didn’t even realize the field until I saw it today,” he said. “Obviously, it’s something that our fans will be excited about. It’s something our players will be excited about.”

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  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    “… This was a great learning experience for them to understand it never, ever comes down to the last play.”

    A-freakin’-men Coach.

    I’m glad Crean is teaching his players that. Too often, people (us fans mostly, but you also hear it out of athletes as well) moan about the last shot, the last significant play, the “turning point” late in a game. But missing from those analyses are those early opportunities to build a lead, those early mistakes that didn’t seem that big a deal at the time but ended up being part of the erosion of a plan that resulted in a game staying close. It’s actually all right (not preferable, but not fatal) to be down early as long as the team is executing its plan properly and well; a deficit can be recovered from if the team is playing right and doing what they’re supposed to do. What’s not all right is to be down early because the team screwed up, played poorly, or made too many mistakes.

    Young players will learn that the real turning points are often not a missed shot later in the game, or a turnover with just 2-some minutes to go. It’s something that happened early, maybe in the first half, when the **foundation** for the game win is laid. Sometimes it even feels trivial to a player; he didn’t execute proper technique in the post, therefore got blocked out once and gave the opposing rebounder confidence he can do it again. Or it was the failure to take that pass or shot that helped really break down the opponent’s defense and confidence. It could be many things. But it boils down to opportunities and execution.

    Good coaches teach that.

    Fans often put a lot of romance into dramatic comebacks, end-game heroics, coming from behind to steal wins. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with those since it does represent a team overcoming difficulties to seize a victory. But the best coaches have always emphasized establishing and executing a plan from the start, and for good reason too: Those “boring” wins take chance out of the equation. They reduce the opportunity for opponent to find their own heroic side and steal wins for themselves. They build the game’s outcome in a way that makes random events – a bad bounce, a rimmed-out shot, a player accidentally out of position at exactly the wrong time – irrelevant to that outcome.

    If Crean is teaching his players that the early mistakes and missed opportunities are every bit as important as those later in the game, then he’s doing it right.

  • Ole Man

    Last statement is your best one!
    Let me say that I hope CTC is also learning from his mistakes and continues to grow along with his teams and the IU program.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    watching the game, i honestly didn’t think UCONN was that good outside of Napier, the 18 th ranked team in the country?? i don’t think so. but still a learnig tool for our young turnover prone team.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    How could one down vote that comment. It is spot on…unless you don’t understand BB or don’t like CTC? Just curious as to what part you didn’t like or understand?

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    Yeah, there’s that too. I love that he’s doing this right, but there are other things he does that I admit flabbergasts me. But that goes beyond this point into overall coaching critique.

    I do want to get off my chest that I wish he’d bring in a “big man” coach to teach proper rebounding technique. I swear, too many players over Crean’s tenure jump too early and swat at the ball rather than secure it. Vonleh seems to have things down pat, but outside of that the team’s rebounding technique worries me.

    Blech, time to stop. I’m getting off topic.

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    They had serious flaws. I mean, half the reason IU was still in the game were their mistakes. That said, they were well coached and better experienced than our Hoosiers team was. And they had their opportunism down pat; Davis getting stripped those two times was just plain court savvyness.

    You’re right. IU’s got to learn. But they’re young, and the point of being a college athlete is to learn. They’ll be all right. It’ll just take some time, and a few frustrating games here and there.

  • Alford Bailey

    Yea, get the guy that teaches it at MSU.

  • IULore

    Kids watching NBA guys rebound. The NBA technique is different by necessity and more nuanced.

  • IULore

    now they are 13, and we lost votes. Go figure,…

  • HoosierTrav

    Dont worry about those. Its a popularity contest. Its frustrating but thats what you get from a bunch of media members get a vote. I respect the coaches poll much more than the AP.

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    To be honest, I don’t really thing either poll matters much until tournament time comes around, and then only for seeding.

    But yes, I agree: It IS a popularity contest (BTW, I think that holds true for coaches as well as writers; it’s just that I think coaches opinions generally have more thought behind them). The real rankings only occur after the final game, and it’s all determined by play, not votes. Until then, poll rankings are a mixture of popularity, perceived potential, and personal points of view. As the season goes, there’s a bit more objectivity injected into the mix via record and strength of opponents, but poll ranking always have an element of opinion and are never anything other than fluid.

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    Thanks for the compliment, but I have no worries about whoever did that or why they did it. Some people don’t like long comments. Some people don’t like serious posts. And some people don’t like Bugs Bunny avatars. Until there’s an actual post making an argument, the downvote isn’t all that important. And dammit, I’ll keep using this Bugs avatar ’till the day I die! 😀

  • RON K