Win against SMU a sign Indiana is ‘growing up’

  • 11/21/2014 9:00 am in

As Tom Crean spoke following his team’s 74-68 win over No. 22 SMU on Thursday night, the emotion in the voice of the seventh-year Indiana coach was noticeable and powerful.

“We’ve got a lot of places to get better at,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play. But with what they’ve been through over a period of time, I’m proud of their work. I’m proud of how serious they are.

“I’m proud of – they’re trying to grow up. They’re growing up.”

Minutes earlier, his team had just completed an upset of the nationally-ranked Mustangs. His team that had nine newcomers to start the season. His team that faced so much adversity in the weeks leading up to the season — with the Devin Davis and Emmitt Holt car accident and the Troy Williams and Stan Robinson suspensions. His team that dealt with public doubts from fans, media and alumni.

On Thursday, in front of an anxious yet electrified crowd in Assembly Hall, it all reached a crescendo. This time, though, the adversity came on the court.

“You can’t plan for everything that they’ve been through and that they’re going through,” Crean said. “It’s not like we’ve been through it. I mean, we’re still in the midst of it. We’re still in the midst of maturing. We’re still in the midst of growing up.”

Early in the game, the Hoosiers were overmatched. They could not get the ball in the paint, whatsoever. The Mustangs forced them into a slow-paced game and pounded them on the boards. The score, at the 10:51 mark of the first half, was 22-10 in SMU’s favor.

Indiana faced similar struggles throughout Thursday’s game. SMU grabbed 33.3 percent of its misses and scored 10 second chance points. The Hoosiers allowed 24-of-37 SMU two-point baskets. Even with Robinson and Williams making their debuts, they did not swing the rebounding deficit in the Hoosiers’ favor.

All that adversity Indiana had dealt with off the court was matched on the court against SMU.

“The thing with adversity, you’re going to go one or two ways with it,” Crean said. “It’s either going to break you or it’s going to bond you.”

On Thursday night, the Hoosiers bonded.

Despite the early deficit, the Hoosiers clawed back into the game with 3-point shooting and gutsy driving toward the rim. They kept a high-tempo offense to counter SMU’s efforts to drag them into a slower-paced game. They forced fouls. They also stepped up a notch defensively.

The Hoosiers utilized a 1-3-1 zone to draw 19 SMU turnovers. Indiana, meanwhile, committed just seven for a turnover percentage of 10.4. It was the Hoosiers’ lowest in a game since a 77-67 loss to Wisconsin on March 3, 2011.

“The difference is making the easy plays,” junior Yogi Ferrell said. “In the game, we didn’t force anything. We just kind of moved the ball, picked different spots for us. I think that’s the biggest thing. The coaches always harp on making the simple play. I feel like we did that tonight.”

Though SMU kept the game in their control and nearly forced multiple runs, the Hoosiers remained in the game — never allowing the Mustangs to pull away. The Hoosiers made the big shots when they needed to. They kept calm as SMU continued to knock on the door.

“Give them credit, they’re really unselfish,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “They play real hard. I think they are a fun team to watch.”

All that paid off at the final buzzer when the Hoosiers emerged with their third victory in as many games.

After weeks of turmoil and months of uncertainty on how the Hoosiers would perform when the competition level became tougher — given so much roster turnover over the offseason — this Indiana squad passed its first test with flying colors.

“All in all,” Crean said, “a very good win, a very impressive win for our team.”

The road ahead still remains long; there are plenty more worthy opponents looming in the near future.

But there now is a different aura surrounding the Hoosiers. There is confidence.

“When you get a team that bonds like that, that’s going to be important,” Crean said. “And we can grow. We’re still young in so many areas.”

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  • TomJameson

    Comment of the day!

  • Hoosierfan1

    I don’t understand your logic…We just beat a bigger more athletic team than any we will face n the big ten at the 4 and 5 position outside of one, arguably. And that is with HMP looking lost as you say. I think this speaks to the fact that we need his presence more than we need him to fill up the stat sheet. Just look at his stats and the final score. It speaks for itself.

  • b_side

    Need to manage your expectations of our team 3-point shooting percentage. Last year, teams like Creighton (#1) and Michigan (#4) shot just over 40%. There will be games where we hit 45%-50% (Penn State, Rutgers perhaps) and then games where we’ll be in the mid-30’s. Great to see that we don’t completely live by the 3 and die by the 3.

  • b_side

    I’d give my right arm to see that game played. Love how we’d match up and think the Cody/Vonleh pairing is ideal for their yin-yang strengths.

  • INUnivHoosier

    As long as you don’t breathe deep and count too far past ten.

  • HoosierFan08

    But we did live by the three last night, thats the point. We shot it 33 times. And my point is that if you are going to shoot the ball 33 times behind the arc, you have to shoot better than 36%, because you aren’t leaving yourself many scoring options other than that. 36% behind the arc is an acceptable percentage as long as you are finding other ways to score, which we weren’t last night. 36% is also an acceptable percentage when the defense is contesting your shots but not when they leave you wide open on 80-90 percent of them. Once again, great win. They figured out how to beat a good team while not shooting well, and that’s something we couldn’t do last year, excited about that, but no I don’t need to manage my expectations. I don’t expect them to hit 45-50% every night, but I do expect them to hit 45-50% when they aren’t being guarded

  • Hoosierfan1

    We beat a bigger more athletic team in the front court by shooting 33 three’s and 36% from behind the arc. That is the facts as they now stand. What we don’t have a good grasp on is how much did our defense force their high turnover %.
    It might be that our depth in the backcourt might have something to do with this outcome. Bottom line is we will need a few more games to adequately judge where we are. But for right now… for what we know…we are in a pretty good place.

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Ha, I thought RoJo had his worst game of the year (0-6 from beyond the arc, and nearly half the team’s TOs at 4), but freshmen are inconsistent.

  • InTheMtns

    IMO, nope.

  • Hoosier Taxidermist

    Nice game for our TEAM. Proud of how unselfish everyone was. Was that IU or the Spurs? GO HOOSIERS!!!!!!!!

  • Brad Norrington

    When IU was on offense he was being blocked out pretty good, but when IU was on D he was at a complete loss. There were multiple plays where he allowed a player to get behind him and catch a back door/dump off pass inside which allowed the opponent to score. The zone had him confused and unaware of who he was supposed to cover.

  • Brad Norrington

    Im sure he was anxious with it being his first game, however as soon as he got the ball he was trying to drive directly to the basket somewhat out of control. My point is that this is exactly what he tried to do last year. I would like to see him develop a consistent mid-range jumper and a little better vision when the ball is in his hands. Like I said above he looked a little more polished (as you said he handles the ball better and has a smoother shot), but I expected a little more versatility in his game.

  • Brad Norrington

    I completely disagree about the athletic/size statement. I would say that Wisconsin, Michigan, and maybe OSU and MSU would almost fall into the category of either bigger or athletic. Having him in the middle is good because yes they have to guard him, but no opponent with a dominant big man will have to double team Hanner. This will in turn lead to the opponent playing one on one along the perimeter which will shut down the long range game. If we had a dominant big man then the opponent would have to double team Perea which would free up a shooter and allow a kick out, or at the very least more ball movement. With a force inside the defense has to collapse which leaves the shooters open.

  • b_side

    Our offense is designed to get the shooters all open threes. Crean’s dribble drive is essentially having one attacker, two spreading the floor and one on the baseline for a dump off. So if a Yogi/JBJ/RJ/Troy/Stan attacks and the defense collapses, somoene will be open.

    We hit 20-25 from the line btw, getting into the double bonus in both halves. I’d say that’s another viable way to score.

  • SilentBob

    Hmm he is what he is, and that’s an attacker. He tried a couple of long jumpers that rimmed out, and his mid range floaters were wild to say the least. Don’t know if you can even classify them as floaters lol. His job is to get to the rim and get fouled. There were a couple plays in transition when I would have liked to see him make a pass, well he tried to, but it was too late. A lot of these things could POSSIBLY be because of anxiety and wanting to prove himself like Crean said in his presser. Versatility is a versatile word that can mean a lot of things. He got bigger which should help rebound, defend, and just handle all around contact better. He looks much more alert and comfortable on defense which is awesome. He also has better handles which should make his “out of control” drives more controllable. My definition of polished is finishing off something he was already good at, which last year was predominantly leaping. Now he is in the business of acquiring skills for rebounding, defense, shooting of any kind, and passing. He isn’t gonna get all of these things in one off season. He looks much improved to me.

  • SilentBob

    Yes we will face people who fit either one or the other better, but not many who fit both. And when comparing to our team I don’t think we find a single team more athletic than us. Hanner, Troy, Yogi, Stan, and Rob are all top tier athletes.

  • Brad Norrington

    Like you said his job is to get to the rim and get fouled, if nothing else he does that good and with great consistancy, which I like. I’m hoping all the best for this season. The shooting and athleticism should be fun and maddening to watch. Go Hoosiers

  • Hoosierfan1

    SMU was 6-11, 6-10 and 6-8 on the front line. Not counting Wisconsin the other teams are: Mich. 6-7, 6-6, and 6-7. Mich. St. 6-9, 6-7, and 6-6. Ohio St. 6-11, 6-7, and 6-9. These are the stats. I suppose we could argue about athleticism all night long. My point is we won’t see bigger more athletic than we did last night. HMP doesn’t necessarily have to play much better for us to have a chance in the conference. Our strengths just need to mitigate our weakness.

  • BFowler

    I think James Blackmon is great, but there have been more than a couple great shooters at IU since Alford. To name a few: Jay Edwards (who JBJ reminds me of), Calbert Cheaney, Damon Bailey, Brian Evans, AJ Guyton, Tom Coverdale, Kyle Hornsby, and Eric Gordon come to mind. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid’s game and he is fearless, but I would argue that there have been some great ones since Alford, that’s all.

  • TomJameson

    Yeah, some of that plus he jumped too soon a lot, but other times he altered shots, tipped rebounds out, and was a presence. Not perfect, but not as bad as you describe all the time. Somewhere in the middle but getting better. Imo of course.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Don’t overlook/forget a couple others: 1). Nebraska’s front court could be huge also, depending upon whom Tim Miles plays there. Vucetic, Pitchford and Shields were bad news for us last year. 2). Maryland also will bring some size to the table this year w/Evan Smotrycz-ex Michigan fwd, Cekovsky and Layman..may not be “more” athletic, but you don’t have to be super athletic to score points or rebound.

  • Dave Carnes

    News flash! If the game is not at IU we never recover from the first half deficit.

  • Brad

    While you’re wasting time with hypothetical scenarios, I’ll go ahead and continue to enjoy a good win.


    Agree, he is starting to make me think that he is the male version of Debbie Downer. lol