The Minute After: Illinois

  • 02/25/2016 11:57 pm in

Thoughts on a 74-47 win over the Illini:

The first half at the State Farm Center was one to forget. Not only did the Illini assert their gameplan on Indiana and bust out to a 14-4 lead as the Hoosiers struggled on both sides of the ball, but it was also an ugly half of basketball.

The Hoosiers turned it over 25 percent of their possessions. They shot just 3-of-15 from 3-point distance and scored only .84 points per possession. Nick Zeisloft, starting in place of the injured Robert Johnson, had some issues passing into the post and racked up three turnovers. But despite all that, Indiana trailed by just one point at half (28-27), as the Illini had some turnovers issues (21.9%) of their own after a hot start.

On Indiana’s first possession of the second half, it went to Thomas Bryant in the post for a bucket. That possession was the start of the Hoosiers seizing control of the contest and leaving Illinois for dead. From there, Indiana cruised to a 27-point victory by outscoring the Illini by a ridiculous 47-19 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.

Start with Yogi Ferrell. Indiana’s senior point guard caught fire. Ferrell scored 19 points in 19 minutes (7-of-9, 5-of-6 from deep) en route to a game-high 27 points. Ferrell also added five rebounds, five assists and a steal to his impressive line. Studly star performance.

“That’s what leadership looks like from an upperclassman,” Illinois coach John Groce said after the game.

Denzel Valentine is the best player in the conference and Jared Uthoff has had a great season. But Ferrell has been pretty darn good, too. We’ll see how things play out the next two contests for Indiana. If Ferrell puts up two more special performances, it could make it a little harder on player of the year voters.

Zeisloft (11 second half points, 14 overall) redeemed himself after a rough first half, joining Ferrell in Indiana’s long-range assault with a 3-of-4 performance of his own. Bryant hit his other two field goal attempts and 3-of-3 from the line for a perfect 10 points after the break. In a game with Johnson sidelined due to a sprained ankle and Troy Williams out for a good chunk of the second half with a thigh bruise, Ferrell, Zeisloft and Bryant scored 40 of Indiana’s 47 second half points. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Indiana’s points per possession had risen to 1.21, while the Illini’s flatlined down to .77.

OG Anunoby went scoreless in this one, but his defense on Malcolm Hill was impressive in the post and on the perimeter. Hill came into the game averaging 18.5 points per game. But he didn’t score until the 7:37 mark of the second half and had just five points for the game (2-of-7). Outside of Jalen Coleman-Lands (21 points), no one from Illinois scored in double figures.

Indiana could have let the Illini hang around in this one, but Ferrell and company made sure that just wasn’t going to happen after halftime en route to the Hoosiers’ 13th Big Ten win of the season. After the Maui disappointment and the Duke debacle, no one thought Indiana was going to be a win away from a share of the conference title in late February. The defense was a mess and Indiana looked average.

But Tom Crean preached going back to work and improving. And that his team has. Credit to him. Credit to his players. With March on the horizon, Indiana’s close to a Big Ten title — and maybe more.

Filed to:

  • Chappy Dan

    Would love to watch practice and see Josh in action!

  • I meant to add in the bit about managing TW, but forgot. If I’m not mistaken, last night was a prime example: TW wasn’t performing and was starting to hint at getting out of control, and he was on the bench for a few minutes. When he came back, he wasn’t a juggernaut, but he pulled down some big rebounds and didn’t turn it over (if I’m not mistaken). So, yes, that’s another example of CTC making adjustments.

  • I think that’s absolutely true: time will tell. Then again, it always does. But for now, this season, CTC has done an excellent job and deserves all kinds of credit. And he’s earned keeping his job for sure, and a chance to continue to grow. And if you’re willing to accept that he he has indeed changed some of his patterns and methods, then there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to do so. Just my opinion, but he’s at least earned the benefit of the doubt.

  • TomJameson

    Growing myth … Hahahaha … JBJs “benching” wasn’t a regular occurrence and I’ve NEVER heard anybody say that until you, just now. Prior to his injury, JBJ was being benched more often — as time progressed– It’s not an observation after the fact, there were comments at the time, comments that commended CTC for doing so.
    You are absolutely right, nobody truly knows what would have happened if JBJs injury didn’t happen, but I think CTC was trending that way anyway … JBJs injury just sped up the process.

  • TomJameson

    Oh yeah! That would be awesome. To be a fly on the wall…

  • Chappy Dan

    That’s just our society’s culture of criticism.

  • Incidentally, I’m sure the goal was and will be next year to improve JBJ’s defense. The only way to do so is to play him in games, and Kennesaw State was a great opportunity to do so. And so, it’s not a very good counterexample.

    What we don’t know, unfortunately (because, man, I’d sure love to have had JBJ’s offense on a few occasions), is what would have happened going forward in games where it mattered? I, and I think some others, are proposing that CTC would have continued to adjust JBJ’s time, hopefully with the objective of not only improving the defense on a game-by-game basis, but also improving JBJ’s defense over time.

    I don’t think you’re arguing against the idea that if JBJ learned to play some kind of defense, he’d be a tremendous asset. And how would he learn to play defense if he wasn’t actually playing?

  • Outoftheloop

    Nick, Max, OG, Juwan, Harrison, Ryan, even Collin are all solid + guys that not many (perhaps any) other coaches wanted badly and only Tim is a – player (but a terrific person); 7/8 is very good!

  • Outoftheloop

    I disagree strongly: 1) a Sweet Sixteen is always a very good season; 2) IU loses only Yogi and Max to graduation! James will be back. Troy should be back (at best he will only be a very late 2nd round guy). Thomas should be back (he needs to grow as a player, but more importantly as a very young man- al la Cody over Noah’s example).

  • NZ leaves as well, right?

  • Seriously, right?

  • While I agree with you completely, I really hate the phrase “losing Yogi.” Can’t he be granted another year just because he’s a great kid and we IU fans deserve it?


    To answer your first question, no……I hated it even more. Watched the game with four other guys and at least one of us was telling them to talk about the game and quit acting like it was some kind of talk show for pretty much the whole second half. If ESPN never done that again it wouldn’t be quick enough !

  • Outoftheloop

    There is never (at least not for many years) going to be a replacement for Yogi! But that is NOT to say that a new version of Indiana, with Johnson, Newkirk, James, Jones, Harrison and the other recruit sharing the guard duties, plus Davis for Max, Grant for Nick, Thomas, OG and Juwan with sophomore improvement, Collin and a finally under control and consistent Troy can’t win it ALL!

  • inLinE6

    I highly doubt Troy will come back for another season despite not being a favored pick.

  • IUBizmark

    Josh Newkirk will be there to help fill the void left by Yogi and give us a true PG. our PG play will be much better than Purdue’s.

  • inLinE6

    From fans perspective they probably should both be back, but Troy will be drafted (albeit 2nd round) if he decides to leave. There’s not too much else for him to prove and if he hasn’t progressed significantly in 3 college years, NBA teams are clear what they’re getting. There’s not much need for him to play the final year. TB will get a good chance in 1st round if we play deep in tourney (which means TB has to play well). I always think people should go if they’re projected in 1st round.

  • Missing Moye

    During practice? That’s where the biggest strides occur, if most coaches are to be believed. Certainly if JBJ can play defense at a high level, he’d be a huge asset. I don’t know if he can or is willing to. We’ll find out next year.

    I find it interesting that so many people are claiming that his minutes would have been limited and he would have been liberally benched for defensive lapses. There really wasn’t any history or evidence of that, purely conjecture and opinion on their part. I’m not sure what makes that more correct than my opinions and speculations, but whatever.

  • Missing Moye

    So the pure fact that IU was preseason ranked #15 and is currently around that ranking is bs.

    However, your theory about what prognosticators were imagining when formulating those rankings is… not bs? Hard logic to follow.

  • BL

    So, as a knowledgeable IU fan, you’re suggesting you bought into a preseason #15 ranking for a returning core small ball group (YF/JBJ/RJ/TW) that: (1) underperformed and played horrendous defense in ’14-15; (2) was returning without any of the prior year’s experienced bigs (HMP, DD, EH); and (3) would be expecting improved front line play from an entirely new group consisting of a freshman center, two unheralded recruits, and a discarded front line player from a BIG competitor. Correct?

    I don’t buy that. I’ve read too many of your posts. If I had the time and energy, I’d go back into the archives and look up your comments concerning the preseason rankings. I’m highly confident you were skeptical at best.

  • To boil this down, then: yes, whatever would have happened had JBJ not been injured is speculation. Agreed, of course. And that’s the point, because your position is equally speculative. That’s why I’m considering only what actually did happen, and I’m simply giving CTC his due credit for the season as it’s actually turned out.

  • I re-watched the game today while I was nursing a migraine–no lie. And needless to say, it wasn’t effective.

  • Agreed. I’ll only add that I always thought CTC was a good man, even as I criticized his coaching. I’ve always believed that he genuinely cares about his players (which is incredibly important to me as a fan), is a good recruiter, and is good at developing players and making them better. Seeing him improve those aspects of his coaching where so many of us thought he was weak has been as much fun to me as watching the players develop and come together as a team. I would much rather see CTC develop into a coach that the Hoosier nation can fully support than go through more years of chaos and adjustment with someone new, and I’m really starting to believe he can be that coach.

    As always, we need to wait for the season to end before drawing conclusions, and I’m trying to do that myself. But right now, I’m just really enjoying this team, and CTC is very much a part of it.

  • He’s a real cheerleader on the bench. Guy cracks me up. Earlier in the season I was wondering what the heck he’s doing over there, but then it became clear that he just injects some real positive energy.

  • Missing Moye

    As I recall, my stance was that the preseason ranking was possible so long as the defense was substantially improved and TB was “as advertised” but I lacked confidence in the coaching staff that the defense would truly be improved enough. Early in the season, I suppose that held true, and there’s no need to go down the path again as to, in part, why the defense is now improved.

    I do understand where you are coming from now, though. I’m still not sure the preseason ranking was unjustified based on potential, but would concede that it was probably not based on the right criteria.

  • BL

    With the four and TB I thought we’d compete and be fun to watch but I just wasn’t convinced we’d challenge for a BIG title let alone a top 15 ranking. I knew TB wasn’t Hakeem-like and I was really concerned we’d have no real back-up for him. I mean MB and two unheralded freshman, all 6’8 and under. I definitely had visions of getting crushed by PU again.

    Regarding coaching, defense, etc. – I’m feeling compelled to say, for what it’s worth, that I’m a big believer that we can win BIG titles and even NCAA championships with Coach. I actually love his preferred style of play – D, board, run, and let the players have some creative freedom on the offensive end; very Wooden like. Would like to see some pressing thrown in now and then, but that’s nit picking. Also, I love the way he runs our program and represents the University.

    Like all coaches, TC’s teams won’t play good D or win titles without great players. For example, take our 1976 team – were they a truly great defensive team solely because of RMK? Hell no; Buckner/Wilkerson is arguably the best defensive back court in NCAA history. RMK certainly helped them improve but like OG/JM, they came to school with the tools to be great defenders. Moreover, by example, they pushed all their teammates on the defensive end. As you know, one player going all out on D can be contagious.

    Regarding this year’s team, there’s absolutely no debate, our D improved because the personnel playing changed. More CH/OG/JM means better defense. Did coaching also have something to do with the improved D? Sure. TB has gotten progressively better as have the rest of the players. In fact, if you want proof Coach knows D, listen to his presser regarding defending Hill and Nunn. They didn’t just make the two of them the priority; they dissected their games and determined how to take advantage of their weaknesses.

    Anyway, sorry for the rambling. Bottom line, I believe Coach gets an A+ for the job he’s done this year. From recruiting, to incorporating five new players into the rotation (MB/TB/OG/JM/HN), to obvious player development, to scaling back practice, to in game strategy, to overcoming injuries – he’s definitely earned serious consideration as COY.

  • Missing Moye

    I agree with generally everything you said with a few small exceptions. I do think Crean has done a tremendous job this year and is worthy of praise. Certainly he’s not perfect and will still occasionally drive me crazy with his use (or lack thereof) of timeouts, or an odd substitution, but much less so than in the past. He’s doing a better job this year, flat out.

    Where I take exception is with the belief that we can win NCAA Championships (and B1G championships, to a lesser degree). CTC does have a Final Four to his credit, but his track record as a whole is hard to ignore. I know everyone is caught up in this season and doesn’t want to hear the negativity right now, but to think CTC has turned some proverbial corner in his 17th season as a head coach seems improbable to me.

    The numbers, for what it’s worth… In 16 previous years (not counting this one), TC’s teams have made the tournament 8 times (50%). His overall tourney record is 9-8 (5-7 without the Final Four run). Add in how woeful we’ve been in the B1G tourney under Crean, and the numbers say CTC may not be a good tournament-style coach. I’m hesitant to add in Maui this year as it was so early, but….

    I also think we’re going to have trouble competing for B1G championships on a consistent level. I know we won one a few years ago, and are in a good position this year, but I mean consistently, year-in year-out we’re in the mix. Michigan State-like, or even Wisconsin-like. I don’t say this only because that’s been the case thus far, but I have some real concerns about how CTC puts teams together historically. No secret we have a ton of turnover and transfers, and we’ve had so few 4-year players. Lack of leadership and continuity in a system have been recurring themes, and that’s a direct result. Consider that from 2008-09 to 2012-13, coach recruited 20 scholarship freshman. Counting Yogi this year, 7 of them played four years and graduated (35%). The 13-14 class that should be graduating as seniors next year has only Collin and Troy left (Fischer, Hollowell, Davis, and Stan all gone). Heck, we already lost half of last year’s class after a season (April, Hoetzel, Holt).

    As you mentioned above, it’s hard to compete without the players. We don’t get the 1-and-dones like UK, UNC, Kansas and Duke. We don’t develop 4 year players like Wisconsin or Gonzaga. I think this alone is going to lead to inconsistent rosters and inconsistent results.

  • BL

    MM I appreciate the obvious time invested in your response and acknowledge many of the factual merits. However, I choose to look at Coach’s career differently.

    Unlike so many of the HOF coaches (e.g. RMK and Izzo), TC hasn’t had the good fortune of the proverbial “being in the right place at the right time”. By contrast, RMK took over a “blue chip” program that only needed one thing; a young coach with promise. The program wasn’t on probation and superior talent was still choosing IU as evidenced by the fact that the the two best players (Steve Downing and John Ritter) on IU’s ’72-73 team that lost in the NCAA semi’s were on the roster when RMK arrived. In fact, the year prior to RMK’s arrival, George McGinnis was on an IU team that went 9-5 in conference finishing 4th. Similarly, Izzo took over a top tier program that was in even better shape. In Heathcote’s last year, MSU went 14-4 in conference finishing 2nd.

    Unlike RMK and Izzo, Coach chose to take over programs in dire straits. When he took over Marquette, they had been to one NCAA tournament in 16 years and the cupboard was bare talent wise. Understandably, he spent the first two years building his program and focusing on recruiting. In his third year they made the NCAA’s. In his fourth year they made it to the Final Four. If you focus on the last seven of his nine years at Marquette, he won 70% of his games and took Marquette to the NCAA’s five times. Frankly, no matter how you cut it, considering the program he inherited, that’s outstanding coaching.

    Naturally, you know the story at IU. You have to toss out the first three years where he was charged with bringing us back from D1 purgatory. The next two years were awesome. Granted, a deeper run in the NCAA tourney in ’12-13 would have been nice but jeez, from where we’d been, complaining is hardly justified. Now the most recent two years were a definite set back. Personally, I think Coach felt the pressure to “keep the momentum” and got a little lax with his recruiting standards. I’ve chosen to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as we don’t see a continuing trend.

    A few closing thoughts:

    1. Based on the the condition of the programs Coach took over, it would be completely unfair to simply judge him by total career stats (e.g. only taking his teams to the big dance 50% of the time). At a minimum, you have to totally disregard four or five years; the initial years at both MU and IU.
    2. Given the inherited circumstances, I would argue that Coach’s recruiting has been quite remarkable. We’ve seen numerous MAA’s, a couple high first round draft picks, and yes, some really good 3-4 year players (e.g. Hulls, Watford, Sheehey, Ferrell, Hartman, Johnson). Even better, if you consider the current team and what appears to be a really good team next year; we’re trending up. As I’ve said before, IMHO, continuing improvement on the recruiting front will determine Coach’s ultimate legacy at IU.
    3. Finally, I know Coach’s NCAA record isn’t as good to date as what we’d like (btw, I have seen much worse). IMO, that’s more talent than coaching. If we continue to trend up on the recruiting front, I’m confident we’ll see deep NCAA runs. I mean, consider the way you see this team play. Can you imagine our confidence if we had one more true center to back up TB (e.g. Fischer).

  • sounds like “private equity” geniuses at work. everyone pays so that a handful of sociopaths can buy a fifth house somewhere.