Indiana’s win over Illinois ‘a big confidence builder’

  • 01/27/2014 9:10 am in

After Indiana’s 56-46 win over Illinois (13-8, 2-6) on Sunday afternoon in which the Hoosiers shot only 40.8 percent from the field and got only four points from freshman Noah Vonleh, Indiana (13-7, 3-4) coach Tom Crean was asked whether he thought his team could have won with those numbers earlier this season.

“For lack of thinking about it deeper, I would say probably no,” he replied.

After all, the Hoosiers had similar numbers in their 59-58 loss to Connecticut earlier this year, when they shot an identical 40.8 percent and got zero points from Vonleh. And in games this season, before Sunday, that the Hoosiers have scored less than 60 points, they were 0-4.

Crean did not even need to look further back than 26 days earlier, when Indiana and Illinois played in Champaign, Ill., in their Big Ten opener. That game, the Hoosiers allowed 83 points and turned the ball over 23 times in an overtime loss.

On Sunday, though, Crean spoke after a victory in which the Hoosiers showed the grit they didn’t even have earlier this season. Against Illinois, Indiana scored less than 60 points, yet allowed the fewest points in a Big Ten game in Crean’s tenure — the fewest since a 65-43, Jan. 23, 2008, win against Iowa.

“I think a lot of us have a better sense of how each of us are going to play, where we’re going to be out on the court,” sophomore Yogi Ferrell said. “We’re definitely trusting each other a lot more, I feel like, than we did before.”

The Hoosiers credit that newly-gained trust simply due to games played as a team. They have been in low-scoring struggles before, and they have also been in back-and-forth battles, epitomized by recent wins at Penn State and against then-No. 3 Wisconsin.

Before Illinois, they weren’t able to execute as consistently in a low-scoring affair. And in the first half against the Illini, the Hoosiers turned the ball over eight times and shot only a 39.6 effective field goal percentage, barely holding a 26-24 edge.

In the second half, however, Indiana found that offensive efficiency it had been lacking all along. Behind 15 Ferrell points, the Hoosiers shot a 48.0 eFG% and turned the ball over only five times. And in continuing to build its identity of getting the ball into the paint, despite perhaps a slower pace, Indiana had 14 points in that category in the second half alone.

“Where a week ago we might have tried to force the issue a little bit, we might have gotten stagnant, today we continued to have great movement,” Crean said. “We continued to play out of corners. We continued to make the next pass. We didn’t force action, turnovers.”

As Indiana built its confidence on offense, its defense kept the team ahead. Utilizing a mix of defenses, including a 2-3 zone that Ferrell says works “great” for the Hoosiers, Indiana held Illinois to an 18-for-54 clip from the field and a 5-for-23 mark from beyond the arc.

And even with all those misses, the Illini had only four offensive rebounds on the afternoon. Though this season they average a 33.7 offensive rebounding percentage, on Sunday, their percentage was only 10.8.

Vonleh, despite scoring only four points, had 11 defensive rebounds and led the Hoosiers’ defensive effort in allowing zero second-chance points.

“Us being young isn’t a factor at all,” Ferrell said. “It just comes down to us being patient, really. We’ve got to have more of a defensive mindset.”

Indiana’s players have been hearing the same message from Crean all season: play smarter and play hard. On Sunday, the Hoosiers did just that. “Games like this exponentially raise their confidence level,” Crean said.

And with 11 games remaining on the regular season schedule — seven of those against teams with a conference record at or below .500 — the Hoosiers have plenty more opportunities to build on Sunday’s success.

“It just gives us confidence knowing we’re right there (in the Big Ten), and win a few more games, and we’ll be right in the mix,” sophomore Austin Etherington said. “I think that’s a big confidence builder for us as a team to go and move forward on it.”

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  • drewmiller1

    It’s easy to be frustrated with the IU offense this season, but our defense is the best it’s been in a nearly decade. (acording to pomeroy’s adj defense calculation).

  • MillaRed

    I don’t want to rain on any parades, but if that performance was indeed a “big confidence builder” we are in worse shape than I thought.

    From my couch it looked like we beat the team that sucked more than we did. We’re just not very good. I’m dealing with it. It happens.

    1 minute for Hanner (who upon further review did not travel, thank you for going Tom Pritchard on him sucky refs) and 5 min. for JH. Not what I would have predicted in the pre-season. But apparently necessary.

  • Gregory Spera

    Noah Vonleh, 33 minutes, four points. Will Sheehey, 29 minutes, five points. The coaches have got to figure out some way to get these two guys on track. With Yogi, they are supposed to be our best players. Don’t know what the answer is. As many mentioned, the offense actually looked much better yesterday, but with minimal results.

  • MillaRed

    “Our offense looked better” And that was with 40% shooting and 25% from three. Ouch!

  • Gregory Spera

    No seriously! Is there anything more frustrating than watching this team’s offense actually generate layups and open threes, and then watch the ball just bounce off the rim time after time after time. And it’s not just the shots missed, but the open shots not taken, for lack of confidence, I suppose.

  • Walton

    While I was watching the game I was thinking more about the position the team would be in if they had loss rather than where they’d be if they had won. The win maintains some confidence and keeps them in the middle of the pack, but they need several more wins than that. They are in a sort of tight rope situation and can hardly afford to fall off right now. They just need to keep winning.

  • Alford Bailey

    The offense did look pretty good at times and got us some good looks at the basket. I’m one to jump on the coaches in the past but these guys gotta hit those open looks. Alot of contact on NV that wasn’t called. He has to get to the line more.

  • Alford Bailey

    The Illini are in the middle of an epic slide and we were at home. I would have thought the Wisky game was our “big confidence builder” game of the year so far.

  • HoosierFan76

    You’re not wrong about the refs. I think the B1G officiating is the biggest reason that no team from the conference has won the NCAA tournament since 2000. Players, particularly bigs, get used to refs swallowing the whistle and “letting them play” in conference action, then pile up the fouls in postseason play when officials from other conferences are calling the games.

    FWIW, yesterday’s game was the first one in my recent recollection when IU was able to pull out the win when the refs were allowing tons of physical contact. That usually doesn’t work to the Hoosiers’ advantage. I put a lot of that on Vonleh – he played like a grown man yesterday, and was not going to be denied on the boards – and Sheehey. Those guys got in there and scrapped. Ugly game, but great win.

  • HoosierDavey

    They are obviously not calling the games like they were called in the non-conference season, that is for sure! Seems like you can bump the dribbler all you want now and it’s not a foul.

  • HoosierFan76

    Vonleh was an absolute beast on the boards, though (14 rebounds), and Sheehey got 9 boards of his own. Those guys made huge contributions to the Hoosier cause, just not in terms of points. Going forward, I would like to see both of them put more points on the board, but they definitely still helped the team yesterday.

    As far as getting Vonleh more on track, I think getting him the ball in the high post would serve his face-up game much better than relying on getting him the ball in the low post (which is hard to do, anyway) and then having him make a back-to-the-basket move (which is not his natural position or inclination).

    It’s harder to figure out what needs to happen for Will. I’m just glad that he was there yesterday and was able to give it his all, without his injury limiting his play.

  • HoosierFan76

    I agree about the missed layups. The team could use some good drills in practice to help them finish better through contact. It’s frustrating to see guys miss open threes, but we knew going into the season that there would be struggles with outside shooting, so that’s not a surprise.

  • Walton

    I liked our offense at the end of the game when we were trying to milk the clock. I think we got a couple good looks and some fouls after taking close to 35 seconds off the clock. If we can mix a patient offense like that with our improving defense and our running attack I think we can get better.

  • TomJameson

    Noah is the primary focus of the defense. Most every time he touched the ball he had at least two, but more often three defenders collapse around him. Not only makes it difficult to shoot, but hard to pass out of that sometimes. And of course, they were allowed to bang him up pretty good too. You could see Noah was getting pretty frustrated.

  • Gregory Spera

    You are correct. Yogi getting fouled is, by far, our best offensive option (8 for 8 yesterday.)

  • Alford Bailey

    That said, I hope it does build some confidence. Like I’ve said before, my hope is this team is playing its best ball consistently towards the end of the conference slate. I want to see this team go to Indy and make some serious noise in the B1G tourney. Play their way into the Dance. IU is so over due to have some success in the conference tourney, hoping this is the year.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Tom Crean has talked about the missed layups in recent days. According to him (and I have no reason to say he’s not being truthful), IU works on finishing around the rim quite a bit. He says they use big pads to simulate finishing through contact, they practice being patient around the rim and using a shot fake, they practice “taking an extra dribble” before rising for a layup….they are working on it constantly and I just remind myself how many Victor and Will missed during their freshman seasons and try to convince myself that it’ll get better.

  • Candy Striped Kid

    I’m surprised these fantastic Coach Crean quotes didn’t make this article:

    “Putting yourself in position where you can take the next step.” or

    “There is a huge difference from being discouraged and being dissapointed. Dissapointment is inevitable, you move right along. Now, if you get discouraged, you are building your own wall.”

    Fantastic life lessons. The Indiana program is so lucky to have this man as a coach and mentor. Regardless of what you think about his coaching, I don’t think anyone can argue with the man’s character.

  • Kyl470

    I think John Groce post game press conference said it all. He flat out said the game is not being officiated the way it was in non conference. They are allowing defenders to hand check and bump guys when they are driving again. Once the NCAA tournament rolls around if they call it tight again all the Big Ten teams that adjusted to the physical play are going to be in trouble.

  • MillaRed

    Agreed. I think Wisconsin suffers more because of that than anyone in the dance.

  • MillaRed

    We all saw it coming. The fact they even went there pre season is so lame.

  • MillaRed

    IMO, the “CTC fired” crowd represents less than 1% of the ITH followers. Therefore, it’s not worth considering. Right?

  • WhatsUpKnight

    maybe not a huge win, especially considering it was at the real assembly hall, and illinois’ current downward spiral, but it definitely would have been a huge loss. nice win hoosiers!

    sure does look like their confidencecomfort levels are rising at a significant rate. beginning to think we have a legit shot at dancing this year. and definitely feeling better about what this team’s gonna look like next year.

  • MillaRed

    Ha ha. Ladies and gents,I give you the 2013-2014 Hoosiers!

    I still love them though.

  • HoosierFan76

    I remember all the missed layups of the past, too. What makes it frustrating as a fan is that getting a layup usually comes from executing well offensively, then finishing the layup should (in theory) be the easy part. Oh well, glad to hear that they’re working on it – I’m sure it’ll get better.

  • Walton

    Besides Syracuse, no team IU has played has seemed that far superior to them. A lot of these teams are just as sloppy or inconsistent than IU. College basketball has its share of deficiencies from most teams.

  • kbb247

    I agree with you as well. They do miss him at times in the post(a lot some games), but he doesn’t have any room to operate once he does touch the ball in the post. They have been moving him around as well. IMO he needs to do a better job of passing (making the correct pass), when they collapse around him. Of course, if he does they will probably brick it. LOL.

  • kbb247

    I am with you on HMP. I will admit that I am biased, because i really like the kid. Howard did a good job yesterday, but IMO HMP can give us more, or has a chance to give us more. JH hits a 3 and then promptly goes to the bench and doesn’t see the floor again. That was confusing as well. I am assuming that Crean sees something in practice, that we are not. BTW I did like that token press we ran a few times. Crean wasn’t really trying to cause turnovers, but it did make them burn a little clock, and was a nice change of pace so to speak.

  • Chappy Dan

    Yeah, that travel call on Hanner really ticked me off. Definitely not a travel even watching in real time. Also, Yogi got fouled on that late 3 vs. MSU the other day. Could have really changed the game if he converts the 4 point play.

  • Chappy Dan

    I’d say Noah needs to pass out of the block when he gets double/triple/quadruple teamed but I understand that he probably feels like every time he gets it down there, it may be the last time so he better just go straight to the hoop…

  • HoosierHysteria5

    I noticed that foul in the MSU game as well…

  • Chappy Dan

    I just love your name and pic. LOLZ!!!!

  • Chappy Dan

    C’mon dude, Michigan State is easily better than we are.

  • Walton

    Maybe but IU played right with them for most of that last game. MSU makes their share of mistakes, and has looked beatable in many of their games this year. They have just pulled most of those games off and credit to them.

  • Bruce

    Come on dude! Watch mich/mich state game? Both are far superior

  • Bruce

    Missing Paine and Dawson. Take vonleh or yogi out of our line up and c how we do

  • Walton

    Maybe MSU is far superior but they don’t always play like it. They beat IU by 5 points at home and was losing well into the second half. Dawson played enough that game and made some big plays. A far superior team should win by a few more than that at home. Lost to North Carolina whose not that great, Minn and OSU into overtime – not amazing teams. I remember them losing to Columbia during most of that game. They beat Oakland by 4. I know they are good, but they don’t always play like they are far more superior.

  • Mike

    I would add to that – I hope we can learn when to slow our offense down and when to attack. This team is crazy – they slowed it down more yesterday (for parts) and showed signs of getting open looks through ball movement (and pretty decent offense)…..They just can’t get the ball in the hole. When they play up-tempo, they play with a very good fluidity and make shots (this team did crank out a few 100 point games against lesser competition)…….We just turn it over at an extremely high rate – 90% of which are unforced. When they become better shooters they will be able to execute much better in the half-court, when they become better ball-handlers with better snap-decision making abilities, we will be monsters in transition. I actually think this team is not bad as they have looked at times this year, and once it all gels (and time is spent shooting) they will be the very good team we thought that they might be at the beginning of the year and even better. It might just be the beginning of next year!!!!

  • Mike

    We have been holding opponents to an average of 67 points a game – not too shabby!

  • Mike

    I agree that has been the trend over the past years, with the one exception of the Syracuse game in the tournament – where it was the opposite. Last year it almost seemed that CTC was trying to develop a team that would specifically do better in the NCAA’s in spite of how BigTen teams are generally built (quicker, finesse players versus stronger, pounding type players). It was as if the refs decided in that game that ‘oh, they’re from the big ten, we can just ‘let them play.’ Perhaps Syracuse was the better big ten team in that game!

  • Mike

    Here is an observation….When we were enduring those 6 and 10 win seasons, I kept saying to myself that while these players (pritchard, watford, hulls, vj3, oladipo, etc.) might not ever be all-star basketball players individually, if they do not give up, by the time they are juniors and seniors they will be a much better team due to the sheer amount of s*** that they are dealing with now. – So much so that they could perhaps even contend for a title (direct relationship – amount of s*** goes up, so does resolve). Throw a Cody and a Yogi into the mix , and it became a real possibility. Having these young guys tow the line between making it into the tournament or not (as well as dealing with losing games that they should not) may pay off quite a bit in the next couple of years.

  • Mike

    You’re right. It’s easy to say that we need to get Noah the ball more, but if a team is preparing to play IU, one might take notice of our poor shooting and decide to disallow Noah from getting the ball. I would give IU all the three point shots it wants as long as I don’t let Noah get the ball!

  • Ole Man

    He did get in a line about how “young” they are; and that is tiresome.
    And according to statsheetdotcom, MI is the youngest team in the B1G this year.
    And we know where they rank in the conference.

  • HoosierFan76

    I think the Syracuse loss had more to do with the IU starting guards being outscored 38-0 than it did with the refs calling the game any particular way. I’m not saying that the officials were blameless in that game, but IU would’ve lost that game even if it were as tightly officiated as other NCAA tournament games.

  • SCHoosier

    U can’t put four defenders on NV if he has a legitimate outside shooting threat to kick the ball back out too. We don’t. So opponents will double/triple team Noah and make IU beat them from the outside…why not? I’d like to see Noah face the bucket and shoot some 15 footers rather than always trying to get in down deep and then put it on the floor…50-50 for something bad happening.

  • SCHoosier

    Actually for much of the game IU was actually moving the ball around with the pass not the dribble..didn’t always hit the shot at the end of the play..but beat the hell out of pounding the dribble into a TO..

  • SCHoosier

    I guess if you forget the first half…u could say it was a confidence builder. if the guys at the OK coral had shot like these two teams did in the first half..nobody would have died!

  • SCHoosier

    If Hanner even comes close to putting the ball on the floor..it is 70-30 chance for a TO. Same with JH

  • SCHoosier

    I think the head officials figured out that nobody pays hard earned money to come watch refs blow whistles. Agree its not being enforced like it was.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    hey thanks man. that pic still gives me a chuckle once in a while too.