The Minute After: Ohio State

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Thoughts on a 67-58 loss to the Buckeyes:

There would be no outright Big Ten title awarded on Senior Night, no fitting ending to the group that brought Indiana back to its rightful place on top of the college basketball mountain. No, the Buckeyes would come into this game like the Badgers did all those weeks ago, with confidence, no fear and the belief that they could rip the hearts outs of the Assembly Hall faithful, and that they did.

The second half was an absolute defensive clinic against the most efficient offense in the nation, a performance reminiscent of Ohio State’s comeback run against the Spartans at home a few weekends back — strips and steals and blocks on the defensive end leading to buckets, many of them coming from Aaron Craft. Craft is pest, a nuisance, a gnat on defense. But when he also has it going on the other end of the court, when he’s getting to the rim and hitting his jumper, he’s that much more integral to the Buckeyes. And he was doing that tonight. His line: 15 points (7-of-10), four steals, four assists. Dan Dakich called him the most important player on the floor on a few occasions on the call, and well: He was probably right.

By the final buzzer and Tom Crean’s speedy handshake to Thad Matta, the Buckeyes had racked up eight steals, seven blocks and scored 17 of their points off of Indiana’s turnovers. (Indiana would  score nine in this department.) They’d hold the Hoosiers to just 39.6 percent shooting from the field and .96 points per possession. Cody Zeller (17 points) and Christian Watford (12 points) would be the only Hoosiers in double-digits on the evening. Saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Victor Oladipo wouldn’t even attempt a shot. He made up for lost time to start the second half, scoring five points in an out-the-gate run that saw IU score on seven of its first eight possessions. But the aforementioned OSU defense turned up the heat and Oladipo would finish with seven points (3-of-6) and an uncharacteristic four turnovers. Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell would end the night a combined 4-of-16.

Ohio State’s second-best defense in the conference on a per-possession basis did it’s thing tonight, and the Hoosiers had just too large a deficit (11 points, a season-high) with too little time left to make a run at a come-from-behind victory. The Buckeyes also did a better job of cleaning up their misses (an offensive rebounding percent of 35.3 compared to Indiana’s 28.6) and recorded 10 second-chance points to IU’s seven.

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Leading the way

Through endless hard work, Jordan Hulls changed IU’s basketball culture

By Justin Albers

On paper, Jordan Hulls’ story seems pretty simple. Bloomington kid grows up dreaming of playing at Indiana University. Works hard, becomes Mr. Basketball, goes to Indiana, succeeds.

And while there’s some truth in that abbreviated version, Hulls’ path to the Hoosiers wasn’t nearly as smooth as it may appear from the outside.

He was under recruited, overlooked, ignored, and told on more occasions than he can count that he would never play Division-I basketball.

“I wasn’t really recruited by anybody,” Hulls said. “It’s just the way it was.  I was just a little kid running around shooting 3s and stuff.”

Even when he did start to be recruited, Hulls never planned to go to Indiana just because he was a Bloomington kid. It was about the right fit, and under Kelvin Sampson, Indiana didn’t appear to be it. At the time, Hulls was a big Duke fan, and would have given anything to go play there.

“Everybody thought ‘well, he’s coming to IU, right? That’s just an automatic,'” Hulls father, J.C., said. “And no, not at all. He wasn’t really coming here.”

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Pick to Click: Ohio State

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Rules are here, for those unfamiliar.

Standings through sixteen games are here. (Note: Everyone who made a pick the first game was added to the spreadsheet even if they didn’t get the pick correct. After that game, only new people that got a correct pick were added to the spreadsheet. As a result, some people might not see their names on the spreadsheet if they didn’t pick the first game and haven’t gotten any correct picks in the following games. If a scoring error is identified, please email us at insidethehall@gmail.com. Comments addressing scoring in this thread will not be addressed.)

Pool for Ohio State: All players are eligible to be picked.

Picks are due by 8:45 PM ET on Tuesday.

A few reminders:

· State the name of the player (not a nickname) that you’re picking. If you use a nickname for a player, your pick will not be counted. Also, please state who you are picking as the first thing in your comment. We’re tracking hundreds of picks per game. It’s more difficult to keep track of everyone’s pick if it’s not the first thing in your comment.

· Please make sure you are using a valid e-mail address if you are not registered.

· Please make sure you are using the same name each time to pick if you are not registered. We are tracking wins by the name you use to submit your pick. If your name changes on a game-to-game basis, credit for your pick will be given to the name used to submit the pick.

HD Video: Crean, Ferrell and Zeller preview Ohio State

Tom Crean, Yogi Ferrell and Cody Zeller met with the media Monday afternoon to preview Indiana’s game on Tuesday with Ohio State at Assembly Hall.

Watch and listen to their comments in the embedded media players below:

What to Expect: Ohio State

030413rtWith just two regular season games remaining, Indiana has already clinched its first share of the Big Ten championship since 2002 and can capture its first outright title since 1993 with a win over Ohio State or Michigan. The Buckeyes, who have won three straight games, are up first at home for senior night in Assembly Hall.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN with Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich on the call at 9 p.m.:

When Indiana traveled to Columbus to play Ohio State on Feb. 10, the Hoosiers were staring at their biggest threat for back-to-back losses this season to-date. IU followed its first loss, to Butler, with an overmatched Mount St. Mary’s team at home and its first conference loss to Wisconsin with a game at Northwestern. Those were bounce back games Indiana was supposed to win and the Hoosiers did just that. The trip to Ohio State, however, came on the heels of a late collapse at Illinois. How Indiana responded would go a long way in determining its fate in the Big Ten standings.

When the dust settled in Value City Arena on that Sunday afternoon, Indiana played well enough to not only beat the Buckeyes handily, but also retain its No. 1 ranking in the AP poll despite the aforementioned loss in Champaign just three days earlier. At that point, it was arguably IU’s best effort of the season as three players notched 20 or more points as the Hoosiers weathered a tough road environment for a convincing win.

PERSONNEL

As has been the case for a good part of the season, Ohio State is still searching for a reliable second and third scoring option to pair with Deshaun Thomas, who is a good bet to earn All-Big Ten and All-American honors after a very productive junior season. The 6-foot-8 junior from Ft. Wayne uses 27.2 percent of Ohio State’s possessions and averages a league-best 19.2 points. His effective field goal percentage has dropped about six percentage points from last season, primarily because he’s now the focal point of every team’s defensive scouting report, but he’s still shooting close to 50 percent on twos and 36.2 percent on threes. In the first meeting, Thomas scored 26 points, but needed 20 shots and nine trips to the line to get there.

Joining Thomas in the frontcourt rotation are sophomore Amir Williams, who was saddled with foul trouble in IU’s win in Columbus, senior Evan Ravenel, who fouled out, and sophomores Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross. Williams is very limited offensively, but is the Buckeyes best shot blocker (9.6 block percentage) and offensive rebounder (13.6 OR%). Ravenel is a big body who can back opponents down on the block and clean up the defensive glass (19.8 DR%). Thompson is a high flying wing player who finishes well around the basket and in transition, while Ross has the talent to put up points in a hurry, but has struggled to consistently earn minutes.

Aaron Craft is the leader of the Ohio State backcourt and is regarded as one of the nation’s best defenders. Indiana was able to foul out Craft in Columbus and getting him into foul trouble really limited his ability to wreak havoc with ball pressure. His steal totals are down from a season ago from 2.5 per game to 1.9 as is his field goal percentage, which has dropped from 50 to 39.8. Forced to carry a heavier offensive load, Craft’s efficiency has taken a hit.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. also starts in the backcourt and he’s the team’s leading 3-point shooter at 40 percent. He’s heavily reliant on the three to score as 107 of his 221 field goal attempts have come from behind the arc. Shannon Scott is the backup point guard and he’s eighth nationally in steal percentage, but shoots just 42 percent on twos and 36 percent on threes.

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Film Session: Yogi’s big night

Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell scored a career-high 19 points in Indiana’s 73-60 win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday night. His scoring was aided by a strong night at the line (8-of-10), but Ferrell also flashed some serious skill in penetrating off the perimeter for scores at the rim.

A look at three such drives and a jumper from Ferrell in the latest edition of Film Session:

I. Here Ferrell gets a ball screen from Cody Zeller, but Iowa’s D is swarming:

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As Watford comes down the court, he gives Ferrell a quick brush screen:

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Ferrell doesn’t get free via either screen, so he takes matters into his own hands with the Iowa defense spreading out and a lane developing left. Ferrell dribbles right … :

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Watford a Hoosier for life

Alabama native says Bloomington is his home

By Justin Albers

Christian Watford’s path to Indiana wasn’t at all similar to that of the two guys who will be honored with him at Tuesday’s Senior Night at Assembly Hall. Unlike Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston, Watford didn’t grow up in the state. He joined the Hoosiers from Birmingham, Ala. and wasn’t a household name when he stepped on campus for the first time.

So when Indiana struggled through the first two years of Watford’s career, there wasn’t as much pressure for him to stay. It was unlike the situation of Hulls and Elston, who would be abandoning their state school if they bolted during the program’s turmoil.

Watford could have transferred. Other out-of-state recruits did. And he admits now that the thought crossed his mind at some point.

But Watford didn’t leave. Despite the external pressure to do so and the occasional questions from his family, Watford decided to stick it out. He and his family believed in the process.

“Well, it definitely comes to your mind, but you don’t wanna be one of those guys when the going gets tough, you just run,” Watford said. “I ain’t never been like that. I wasn’t fittin to leave because of no losing season or anything like that. If I woulda left, it woulda been because of something totally different.

“Of course, of course, of course [you get questions], that’s just part of it. But you gotta know you’re here for a reason. You gotta stick it out if that’s what you felt like from the beginning, and that’s how I felt. I had a good understanding of the coaching staff, so I felt like I was here for a reason.”

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Big Ten Power Rankings: March 4

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Indiana clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title on Sunday with losses by Michigan State and Wisconsin, but there’s still plenty to decide as we head into the final week of the regular season. Will Indiana win an outright conference crown? Which teams will receive a bye in the conference tournament? And who will shine in the final week and win Big Ten player of the year?

12. Northwestern (13-16, 4-12) (LAST WEEK: 11) … The standings indicate the Wildcats are tied with Nebraska for tenth place. But in its current state, Northwestern is the league’s worst team. In February, Bill Carmody’s team won just one game and failed to score 60 points in six straight losses. It might be time for a change in leadership in Evanston.

11. Penn State (9-19, 1-15) (LAST WEEK: 12) … The Nittany Lions have been competitive all year, but looked like a legitimate threat to finish winless in the country’s toughest league. But credit Pat Chambers and the strong play of Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill for Penn State’s shocker last Wednesday over Michigan. To ensure it won’t finish at the bottom of the power rankings, Penn State must win at Northwestern this week.

10. Nebraska (13-16, 4-12 ) (LAST WEEK: 10) … Another mediocre week for the Cornhuskers. They were blown out at Wisconsin and then lost at Illinois. One of the few bright spots for Tim Miles has been the play of freshman Shavon Shields, who might be the team’s top option next winter.

9. Iowa (18-11, 7-9) (LAST WEEK: 7) … The Hawkeyes have a legitimate shot to finish 9-9 in the conference, but they’re not in the NCAA Tournament conversation because of a mediocre non-conference strength of schedule. They’ve also feasted on the bottom teams in the league with four of their seven wins coming against Northwestern and Penn State.

8. Purdue (14-15, 7-9) (LAST WEEK: 9) … Yes, the Boilermakers lost by double digits this past week to Iowa. But the teams split the season series and Purdue went to Wisconsin on Sunday and knocked off the Badgers on senior day. That’s good enough for a bump up in the rankings.

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Recruit roundup: Blackmon, Hartman win sectional crowns

IPSAC110061aThroughout the season, Inside the Hall will keep you posted on how IU’s six 2013 signees and James Blackmon Jr. are performing at their respective schools.

You can send us stats or results for this report to insidethehall@gmail.com.

2013 SIGNEES

· Collin Hartman (Indianapolis Cathedral): Nine points in sectional-opening 64-59 win over Lawrence North on Feb. 26. Twenty-one points in 55-43 sectional semifinal win over Roncalli on March 1. Sixteen points and nine rebounds in 66-50 win over Indianpolis Tech on March 2 to win sectional championship. Cathedral will play Pendleton Heights on March 9 in regionals at Southport.

· Devin Davis Jr. (Warren Central): Sixteen points and 15 rebounds in a 44-43 sectional loss to Lawrence Central on Feb. 26.

· Luke Fischer (Germantown, WI): Twenty-six points and eight rebounds in a 61-46 sectional semifinal win over Arrowhead on Feb. 28. Nineteen points and nine rebounds in a 73-59 sectional championship win over De Pere. Germantown has won 54 straight games and will play Oshkosh North in the state semifinals on March 8 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

· Noah Vonleh (New Hampton Prep, NH): Twelve points and eight rebounds in a 70-69 overtime win against South Kent in the NEPSAC AAA quarterfinals on Feb. 28. Eighteen points and nine rebounds in a 71-53 loss to St. Thomas More in the NEPSAC AAA semifinals on March 1.

· Stanford Robinson (Findlay Prep, NV): Nine points in a 79-78 win over Impact Academy on Feb. 26 and 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in a 102-67 win over Impact Academy on Feb. 27.

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Elston’s bumpy ride

Faced with a career full of obstacles, Elston still found ways to contribute

By Justin Albers

Derek Elston and the rest of his class stepped onto campus in 2009, not knowing what to expect. Elston had honored his commitment to the Hoosiers despite a coaching change, but this wasn’t what he signed up for.

Elston, a Tipton, Ind. native, committed to the Hoosiers in Sept. 2007 as a high school junior. Former North Central standout and current New Orleans Hornet Eric Gordon was set for his freshman season at Indiana, and would be a junior when Elston got to Bloomington if he stayed in school.

It was the dream Elston had always envisioned. He would play for the state school under a coach he really liked in Kelvin Sampson, and be part of a team loaded with talent.

That’s not how it worked out.

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