With season entering final stretch, Hoosiers prepare for Illinois

  • 03/12/2014 8:12 pm in

Will Sheehey knows his days as an Indiana Hoosier are numbered.

The senior forward has already experienced his senior night and perhaps his final game at Assembly Hall. But he doesn’t want the ride to end, just yet. “I’d love to win every game out,” he said on Wednesday.

That urgency, he hopes, will translate into Indiana’s Big Ten tournament opener on Thursday, in which the 8th-seeded Hoosiers (17-14, 7-11) will play the 9th-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini (18-13, 7-11) at 12 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“Obviously (I’m) making sure that they take each game seriously and each practice seriously,” Sheehey said, “knowing that potentially it could be coming down to one of the final ones.”

As the Hoosiers enter postseason play, Sheehey said the only difference it holds compared to the regular season will be the frequency at which the games come. His teammates, he said, will have to take care of themselves health-wise throughout the whole process. That is, if they get that far.

With top-seeded Michigan looming, Indiana’s focus is on Illinois. The two teams matched up twice in Big Ten play — once in late December and once in late January — with each team winning on its home court. And the Hoosiers have looked at those tapes — the second game occurred while the Illini were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak — as  well as more recent games, in which the Illini have won four of their past five.

“They are ever improving,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “because they have so many different guys that can score.”

The key to winning in the Big Ten, Crean said on Wednesday, comes down to who is making shots. And on Illinois, the weapons are plentiful.

The Illini have the veterans in Joseph Bertrand — who Crean said can beat you on the 3, the drive and on the offensive glass — and Jon Ekey, who hit a 3-pointer against Iowa just before the buzzer to defeat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

It also has seen the emergence of freshman Kendrick Nunn, who Crean called “lethal” from the corners of the court.

“They just score the ball in a variety of ways and have a lot of guys coming off the bench and starting for them,” sophomore Yogi Ferrell said. “They’re a very good team.”

But perhaps Illinois has no bigger threat than transfer Rayvonte Rice, who in his previous two games against Indiana this season has scored a combined 49 points.

“We don’t have one guy who you would look at and would say that’s a really good match-up for Rice,” Crean said.

“That’s been the one type of player this year that we’ve struggled with more than any other type of player is that bigger wing that’s really, really strong and powerful and can really get to the rim.”

And so, Crean said, the Hoosiers will have to execute on defense especially well on Thursday. Sheehey said they’re going to have to limit Rice’s touches, somehow.

“You’ve got to have help,” Crean said, “but at the same time you can’t over-help in this league.”

And on the defensive side of the ball, the Hoosiers compared the Illini to Ohio State, the nation’s No. 2 squad in defensive efficiency.

Crean mentioned how the Illini are “tremendous at taking the elbow away from you” and that their athleticism and defensive intent allows them to cover a lot of court.

In conference play, they are allowing just 1.02 points per possession — third-best in the league. But the main comparison to Ohio State comes in Illinois’s turnover percentage: Opponents turn the ball over 18.8 percent of the time in conference play, second-best in the Big Ten.

“They create a lot of havoc,” Crean said. “They create turnovers, they get their hands on a lot of basketballs. ”

And because of that, the Hoosiers are trying not to look past the Fighting Illini as the test is already tall in itself. And if they can pass test No. 1 in their dream to get to the NCAA tournament, test No. 2 will be only hours away.

“This will be my last go-around,” Sheehey said. “So hopefully the guys will really behind that and whatnot and we can get it going.”

Crean says Hoosiers are healthy heading into Indianapolis

After 33 games played this season (including two exhibitions), Crean said on Wednesday that his team is relatively healthy heading into the Big Ten tournament starting this Thursday.

“I think for the most part, we are (healthy),” he said. “No one has missed time.”

Sophomore Hanner Mosquera-Perea has been wearing a walking boot around campus, senior Evan Gordon is in a finger splint and freshman Noah Vonleh has been in a walking boot, as well.

Vonleh missed two straight games with left foot inflammation before returning to the court on Saturday against Michigan, but Crean noted he should be good to go for Thursday’s game against Illinois.

“We’ve been very careful with Noah this week but he’s been involved in everything,” he said. “But we’ve been very careful with how much we’ve had him out there, just so he can continue to heal.”

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  • BluegrassHoosier

    We win out in Indy and all sins from this season will be forgotten!

  • HoosierGrampy

    Yes, and if you like your current health plan, you can keep it.

  • plasticjimmyhat

    Good call HoosierGrampy… Republican much? (sarcasm implied) in case you’re confused.

  • Ole Man

    No; but they’ll be put on hold temporarily. 🙂

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    I really wish I hadn’t read this particular article.
    The overall tone of it, and the comments from Coach Crean, says we should just stay home, because there’s no way we could beat such a team with that many offensive weapons.
    Couple that with a guy we cannot match up with.
    Everyone criticizes Crean because of substitution patterns, and a lack of adjustments at halftime.
    But I believe you are missing the mark.
    Creans weakness use to be a strength for IU when Knight was here, and that’s the mental aspect of the game.
    The lack of mental preparation, I believe, is the reason we have second half breakdowns, poor shooting nights, and miss one and one’s.
    It’s just MO, but it has been happening all year.

  • Bled4IU

    Digging for anything to be negative! Lack of mental toughness? Really

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    All coaches these days talk up the opponent so they don’t provide extra bulletin board motivation. Heck, even Knight would talk up the opponent, always picking up something the opposing team did relatively well. I hope the locker room message is completely different.

  • plane1972

    Knight’s later teams in Bloomington lacked mental toughness, too. Everyone forgets how the season would just gradually lose air and the team had no fight left in them. Teams that many thought had shots at conference titles and more would just fizzle. He never made it past the Sweet 16 in his last 14 years of coaching (7 years at IU and 7 at Tech). I love Bob, but the revisionist history has to go.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    Really don’t have to dig.
    And actually, I’m pretty easy going about it.
    And yes, lack of mental toughness………………..really.

  • Michael McColly

    The point on this board is to chat about bb and in particular IU BB. But I guess the end is near so people can slide into noxious political blather. Stay Crean and clean for a few more days, please.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    It’s true in the later years of Knight that we did underachieve.
    But most of that had to do with getting less top notch players than we did when he started.
    You may call it revisionist if you like, but it’s simply a fact.
    Knight would rarely let his players talk to the media until after games.
    In 1987, all the other teams were in New Orleans, IU was still in Bloomington, having normal practices, and going to class.
    That’s what I mean.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    My goodness, don’t ever say anything that might be construed as negative.
    If you do, you’re not a real IU fan, and are just looking for a reason to dump on Crean.
    Well, you don’t need to look.
    I mention the mental aspect because it is what I see lacking, and it is my opinion, which is why we are here.
    You don’t have to agree with it, you don’t even have to read it.
    But some people here really like to jump to conclusions.
    I don’t think he’s a bad coach, but I wonder what kind of motivator he is.
    He certainly recruits and puts players in the NBA.

  • Michael McColly

    Thank you. Must have forgotten those painful to watch March one and done displays by Coach Knight’s teams where we could see he had given up on his teams and was eager to go fishing and often said so. But it is a major aspect of a coach’s job: his ability to develop emotional intelligence and find ways to motivate teams. I’m not convinced that Crean is so good at this. The panic this team developed on home games with opponents they should have beaten was glaring problem with this team. Let’s hope they don’t feel that today again with an Illinois team that shed it’s old self and is playing its best ball. Now is the time that mental toughness is crucial.

  • Bled4IU

    Didn’t say anything about you not being a real IU fan. It just gets old reading negative comments about our team. Half cup full, anyone? Everyone knew going into this season it was going to be a transition year, with a lot of potential for growth. This team has room to improve on a few different areas but, to say this team lacks mental toughness is really reaching out there is all i’m saying. What do you have as support to back that comment up? You have an inside scoop with the team Psychologist?

  • plane1972

    I can appreciate that, but I think it takes more time for a young team like this to develop mental toughness. You cannot run away from inexperience, even on your home court.

  • gman

    Even I don’t have anything to add to your comment… You nailed it… GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    I mentioned it in my original post.
    And I don’t think it’s reaching at all.
    Second half breakdowns, good free throw shooters missing one and ones.
    All the missed defensive assignments, etc..etc.
    And you don’t need to be a mental health professional to see it.
    If you don’t agree, fine, I stated it’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about those.
    But that’s how I see it, and I hope that is not the case.

  • Bled4IU

    I can see your point, I apologize for picking on your comment.

  • Alford Bailey

    You gotta put Will on Rice. Let the senior make it or break it for you.


    Good point, and I could not agree more on the revisionist history thing.


    Exactly what I was thinking while reading the article. If he’s not the one primarily guarding him put him in a position where the senior is the one that makes the decision on when to help defend and how much to help.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    I disagree. After every terrible loss these guys have come out and played with a lot of heart. After losing their NCAA tourney chances against Nebraska, they came back and played their hearts out at Michigan. They even got down by eleven late in the second half and still tied the game with under 2 minutes to go against the league’s best team on the road. Or after the whole Hanner ordeal they came back and beat Iowa and Ohio State. These players are young. Nobody has given up on this team except the fans.

  • iubase

    Tough yr. Players are young. RMK rarely played freshman, and certainly never had to depend on 3 freshman starters with a soph point guard. These kids are talented but the mental aspect – “toughness” comes with experience. This team if the major components stay next yr will be really good. Now it is hit and miss. CTC is just stating the facts. I would love to see us beat Illinois. We are seeded 8 and they are 9 for a reason. This will be a close game. If we win this – then Michigan is not a reach and we have a fair ( eg 1 in 3) chance to win that. We can (at times) be as good as anyone in the big ten….or as bad. Most of this is due to inexperience. Players in CTCs system develop well over time – and the promise of this team will be more apparent next yr. Still I would love to see us win the next 4 games.

  • Kyl470

    I agree. I miss the days of the Lary Bird press conference when he would just walk in and say we are going to beat the other team. I’m not saying you should give the other team bulletin board material, but talk about your own team and not how great the other teams players are.

  • CreanFaithful

    Knight also said “The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”

    The key to preparation is understanding your opponents strengths, something that CTC is obviously good at. He is also good at not giving anything away in such press conferences in order to avoid tipping off the opponent with our game plan. If you talk everything up, it’s hard to determine what the guy is focusing on…

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    I agree, and you make a good point.
    But they still put themselves there in the first place.
    It shouldn’t take a home loss against a Northwestern to make you play your hardest.
    I still say mental preparation.

  • CreanFaithful

    The only instance this season that I would agree with this assertion was the Purdue game. The guys got down, stayed quiet and never re focused.

    However, it would have been easy to pack it in against UM the other night, but they didn’t. They fought all the way to the end – which has been the case more often than not this season…

  • Gregory Spera

    I for one, have been TRYING to forget the Richmonds and Cleveland States of the past (unsuccessfully I might add) for many years now. Please… make it stop!

  • Xavier Harkness

    So when is Indiana going to switch to Jordan or Nike brand?

  • dwdkc

    Heck those were the good years in the 80s. Just lost to underrated teams with an overrated team. But yeah the last few Knight years he had lost interest and it was time to move on. The Knight of the 70s changed college basketball and converted the Big 10 from a run and gun league to the toughest defensive league in the country. That coach was no longer there at the end.

  • calbert40


  • William Hagenmaier

    dumbest indiana team i have seen in my 50 yrs of watching absolutely unbelievable

  • kaponya44

    Tourney chances = dashed….gone …

  • CreanFaithful


  • Bled4IU

    I’ve been a Crean supporter since his start, if he doesn’t get this group together, with the addition of next years freshman, for a serious run next year i will be among the many wanting a change. Crean needs to make a change now with his assistants, other than K. Johnson. Today’s game was terrible! I really feel for Will Sheehey!

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    We were talking about Knight, who was fired in 2000.
    Anything after that is not pertinent.
    And many players from Indiana started going elsewhere after the 1994 team, that would be Knights last really good team.
    And aside from DJ White and Eric Gordon, what 5 star recruits have been at IU after 2000?

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    But I ‘still’ say they have a lack of good mental preparation.