A much needed five-day break comes to an end for Indiana on Saturday as the Hoosiers host Houston Baptist at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Huskies are 3-4 and are coming off a 62-47 win over Saint Peter’s on Wednesday at home.
The game will be broadcast on BTN at 4 p.m. ET with Jeff Levering & Bob Wenzel on the call:
After a brutal stretch that included four games in eight days, Indiana had the week off. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Final exams are coming up next week and the Hoosiers also had very little time to practice during their recent run of games. Add in the fact that OG Anunoby is out with an ankle injury and several others are dealing with minor injuries and Indiana should be much more fresh when it takes the floor on Saturday.
Less than three weeks remain until the start of the Big Ten schedule and Houston Baptist is one of three remaining low major opponents on the docket. A year ago at this time, Indiana was still licking its wounds following a brutal loss at Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. This year, the Hoosiers own a top 10 national ranking, wins over Kansas and North Carolina and one of the nation’s best resumes thus far. Can Indiana continue the momentum?
MEET THE HUSKIES
Houston Baptist, which finished 17-17 last season, was picked to finish fifth in the 13-team Southland Conference in the preseason. The Huskies have played just five games so far against Division I competition with road losses to Texas Tech, New Mexico, Marquette and Rice and a win at home over Saint Peter’s, which is ranked in the top 200 of KenPom. This isn’t a contest that figures to give Indiana much, if any, trouble.
Houston Baptist has just two players averaging in double figures: 6-foot-7 senior forward Colton Lasher (pictured) and Josh Ibarra, a 6-foot-11 junior.
Lasher is averaging a team-high 13.1 points per game, but is shooting just 39 percent from the field. He has a team-high 10 steals. Ibarra is a very good defensive rebounder and is making 56.1 percent of his field goal attempts.
Alex Fountain, a 6-foot-7 senior, comes off the bench and is the team’s fourth leading scorer at 8.9 points per game. He’s also the team’s best 3-point shooter at 53.8 percent.
Sophomore Braxton Bonds and freshman Jalen Weber split the point guard duties with Bonds as the starter. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is averaging 7.4 points, four rebounds and has 21 assists (to 11 turnovers) in 25.1 minutes per game. Weber has hit 6 of his 12 3-point attempts and averages 6.6 points per game.
Reveal Chukwujekwu, a 6-foot-3 senior, is Houston Baptist’s third leading scorer (9.0 ppg) and second leading rebounder (5.6 rpg). Atif Russell, a graduate transfer from Pepperdine, is averaging 8.8 points, but is shooting just 40.5 percent from the field.
Asa Cantwell, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, has made a team-high 15 3-pointers and is shooting 50 percent from deep. Jalen Weber, a 6-foot-1 freshman, is another member of the 10-man rotation who can knock in a 3 if left open. Weber is 6-of-12 on 3s this season.
There are a couple of things Houston Baptist does well that bear watching. The Huskies are hitting 37 percent of their 3s against Division I competition and are also in the top 55 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
But everything else on the resume suggests it will be a long afternoon for Ron Cottrell’s team in Bloomington.
Division I opponents are making 61 percent of their 2s against Houston Baptist and are posting a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 49.4 percent. Despite having some size on the roster, Houston Baptist has no shot blocking presence and has been consistently exploited in the paint.
Houston Baptist also likes to run and in four of its five games against Division I teams, the Huskies have had 74 or more possessions.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The Vegas line will be out later on Friday afternoon, but Ken Pomeroy is projecting a 24-point win with a 99 percent chance of victory for Indiana. Sagarin has Indiana as a 25-point favorite when adjusted for home court.
With another week off between this contest and next Saturday’s Crossroads Classic game against Butler in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, this is an important game for Indiana to implement whatever it has focused on this past week in practice.
Houston Baptist is unlikely to keep this game competitive after halftime as all of its losses have come by 16 points or more. A win would push Indiana’s home court winning streak to 24 games, which is currently the fifth longest streak in the nation.
Davis emerging as significant factor in IU’s rotation
Indiana’s 2012-2013 team featuring Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo is regarded as Tom Crean’s best in his first eight seasons in Bloomington.
That group won the Big Ten outright, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and won 29 games before falling to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen.
This season’s team may not have two lottery picks or the experienced veteran leadership that Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston provided, but it does have the potential to build something that team didn’t possess: a quality bench.
By the end of the 2012-2013 season, Indiana was largely playing a 8-man rotation with Will Sheehey, Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell off the bench. Of those three, only Sheehey was the player who produced with any consistency.
Through eight games, this Indiana team appears to have more upside on the bench. Juwan Morgan, who had been coming off the bench before the injury to OG Anunoby, can play multiple positions effectively. Freshman Curtis Jones went for 15 points in IU’s season opening win over Kansas in Hawaii. Most recently, another freshman is charging hard into the rotation: De’Ron Davis.
The Colorado Mr. Basketball got a late start to his collegiate career after missing the summer in Bloomington, but has rounded into form over IU’s last three games.
In wins over North Carolina, SIU Edwardsville and Southeast Missouri State, Davis is averaging 11 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 15.3 minutes per game.
More importantly than the raw numbers, Davis owns the seventh best player efficiency rating among Big Ten players according to John Hollinger’s player efficiency ratings. And his offensive rating of 128.2 is the second best of IU’s rotation players (behind Juwan Morgan) according to Ken Pomeroy’s stats.
At 6-foot-10, Davis isn’t an explosive athlete, but he understands positioning, footwork and is an excellent passer for a big man. He’s also done a solid job of blocking shots without fouling, a sign that he understands timing is arguably the most important factor in blocking and changing shots.
His versatility, along with the comfort level Indiana has with Thomas Bryant on the perimeter, has led to lineups including both Davis and Bryant together. In previous seasons, it’s been rare for the Hoosiers to utilize two big men in the same lineup.
“The next big thing, along with De’Ron being able to play those (longer) stretches is to be able to play with Thomas inside of those stretches even better than what they have as we move up the ladder here,” Tom Crean said on Sunday. “We’re proud of the week that he had.”
Once Anunoby returns from injury, Indiana will be able to mix up lineups to best suit certain matchups. The Hoosiers started three guards against both Kansas and UNC, but have also started Anunoby, Morgan and Bryant together in two games.
The continued development of Davis should give Crean even more flexibility moving forward. That flexibility didn’t necessarily exist back in 2012-13, when Indiana utilized a smaller rotation and the same starting lineup in 35 of 36 games.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m not married to a lineup,” Crean explained. “With that being said, we’ll see how it goes. I’m happy with his attitude and improvement. I know how much he wants it. He’s smart. And he’s just getting used to playing when he didn’t have the summer to prepare for it.”
Roundup: A look at how former Hoosiers are faring in the NBA
Indiana has six players in the NBA this season, which ties them with Michigan for the second most of any Big Ten school right now. (Michigan State has eight.)
Here’s a look at how each former Hoosier is faring roughly 25 percent into the NBA season:
· Yogi Ferrell, Brooklyn Nets: Ferrell has been assigned to the D-League a couple of times, but has been recalled quickly each time as the Nets continue to deal with injuries. Ferrell is averaging 5.4 points, 1.7 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game over 10 contests. He’s questionable to play tonight against Denver with an ankle injury. As an undrafted rookie, Ferrell is making the most of the opportunity with a franchise that is going through a significant rebuild.
· Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets: The Rockets are off to a terrific start at 14-7 and Gordon, who signed for four years and $53 million in July, is a major reason why. Gordon is second on the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game and is shooting 39.9 percent on 3s. He’s also second on the team in minutes at 31.3 per game despite starting just eight of the team’s 21 games. But most importantly for Gordon, he’s been able to stay healthy, which has been a challenge throughout his NBA career. If he continues to do so, his contract may end up being a bargain long term for Houston.
· Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder have won six in a row and currently sit atop the standings of the Northwest division. Russell Westbrook is obviously the story in OKC, but Oladipo is proving himself to be a capable sidekick. Oladipo, who agreed to a four-year, $84 million extension in October, is averaging 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists and a steal in 35.2 minutes per game for the Thunder. Assuming the Thunder can keep pace in the super competitive Western Conference, Oladipo will have the opportunity to play in the postseason for the first time in his NBA career.
· Noah Vonleh, Portland Trail Blazers: After a disappointing start, Portland is beginning to round into form and make a move up the standings in the Northwest division of the Western Conference. Vonleh, who had a good preseason, is a fringe rotation guy right now. He’s played in 17 of the team’s 22 games. He’s averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game. Vonleh, who is in his third NBA season, is still just 21 years old. Portland has already picked up his option for next season, which will pay him roughly $3.5 million.
· Troy Williams, Memphis Grizzlies: Despite the fact that Mike Conley has missed five games and is out indefinitely with a back injury, the Grizzlies are 15-8 and own the fifth best record in the Western Conference. Williams has started eight of the 17 games he’s appeared in and is averaging 5.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 17.8 minutes. With all of the injuries Memphis has dealt with this season, they’ve had to rely on Williams and he’s delivered. Among rookies, he’s got the 17th best player efficiency rating in the NBA according to John Hollinger’s stats on ESPN Insider.
· Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets: Zeller is averaging 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocks for Charlotte, which currently sits atop the Southeast division of the Eastern Conference at 12-9. Zeller has battled a back injury, but has appeared in 18 of the team’s 21 games and has started 16 of those contests. His efficiency really stands out as he’s shooting 60.8 percent from the field, the highest percentage on the Hornets. His total shot percentage ranks fifth among NBA centers according to Hollinger’s stats. Zeller agreed to a four-year contract extension in October worth $56 million.
Juwan Morgan posted a perfect 4-of-4 performance from the field in Indiana’s 83-55 win over Southeast Missouri State on Sunday.
But Morgan’s buckets didn’t come from him alone.
In fact, the ball ended up in Morgan’s hands each time thanks to some smart passing from the low and high block via Thomas Bryant and De’Ron Davis.
We’ll explore all four scores in the latest edition of Film Session:
James Blackmon Jr. enters the ball to Bryant:
With Bryant drawing defensive attention and all five Redhawks in or near the paint, he throws a skip pass to Robert Johnson on the left wing:
Newkirk finds space in the defense on the left high post and Johnson makes the pass. Morgan looms in the left corner:
Newkirk attracts Morgan’s man and then throws him the pass. Morgan has a lane to the rack via the baseline:
He takes it and scores at the bucket through contact, drawing the foul in the process:
Morgan would miss his and-1 attempt at the line, the only shot he missed all game.
News and notes from Tom Crean’s radio show
Inside IU basketball with Tom Crean was live on Monday evening from the Holiday Inn in Bloomington. The Hoosiers had three games in five days and are now 7-1 following wins over No. 3 North Carolina, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Southeast Missouri State. Collin Hartman was the player guest.
Below are news and notes with comments from Crean and Hartman on Monday evening:
· After playing four games in an eight-day stretch, Crean said it’s been a while since IU had a real practice. His main concern is it’s been hard to work on some of the things they need to work on. Things slow down a little bit over the next week and Crean said it’ll be good to have some time to go against each other and work with lineups a little bit.
· Crean on the atmosphere against UNC: “Tim Garl (longtime IU athletic trainer) has seen every atmosphere possible and he’s been there for so many years. He was literally blown away by that level. He usually texts about our injury update late at night but he usually doesn’t text at the fact at how great that crowd was. He’s seen it all. Bottom line is when you get a guy like Tim excited, it’s a special night. The energy in the building never waned. There’s nothing like it…it gave our players an incredible amount of strength.”
· Defensive improvement: Last year through eight games, IU allowed opponents to shoot 45.5 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from behind arc. This year through eight games, IU is holding opponents to 37.4 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from the 3-poing range. Crean said, “We’re getting better, no doubt about it. A year ago we were left for dead on the side of the road.” Specifically, defensive rebounding has improved from everyone, including guards.
· Crean’s comments on Juwan Morgan stepping up to fill in during OG Anunoby’s absence: “Juwan comes in and takes over the starting role and puts up a double-double. He’s becoming a leader, taking responsibility vocally, rebounding well, defending well and making shots.” Morgan was 12-12 from the field over IU’s last two games and led the way on defense and rebounds.
· On De’Ron Davis increasing playing time: “We knew it was coming, and it’ll get even better. It’s just a matter of time, playing longer stretches, learning how to play with Thomas (Bryant), it opens up so many more options through the post.” If Davis can play the post, that allows Bryant to move around the perimeter more.
· Concerning Anunoby, Crean said it’s difficult for anybody to come in and make up the way he makes shots and plays defensively. But they’ve made up for the loss in rebounding, with Morgan and Davis especially. Right now, his status is “day-to-day, we’ll see how it goes,” according to Crean. He mentioned Anunoby has been doing mechanical work shooting from the chair working on follow through and building range.
· For Josh Newkirk adapting into his leadership role: “The bottom line is that he needs to make better decisions with the ball, he’s making some turnovers right now that can’t be made but he’s shooting the ball better.” Crean also emphasized there are times where IU is out on the court looking at each other, and that’s when Newkirk needs to take command of the team.
· IU is off until Dec. 10 when it faces Houston Baptist at home. Crean’s comments on the matchup: “They score a lot of points, their average time of possession is 15 seconds so they have a fast pace of game. We don’t want to be out there trading baskets, we want to get out and get our break. But this week is time to get ourselves better and focus on them later in the week.”
· Hartman’s comments on the team this season: “They’re extremely talented, they have all the talent in the world. They’re smart guys and they love to win. Put all that together with a little bit of experience, a lot of coaching, and it’s dangerous.”
· Crean has given Hartman new roles to focus on inside practices and games. Hartman said his experience makes it easy for him to give tips to the younger guys with things to tweak or tips of how to improve. One guy that Hartman said has impressed him is Zach McRoberts. “He’s diving on the floor for balls, has high energy, moves the ball, makes hustle plays, crashes the boards, that kind of thing. It’s not on stat sheet, but it keeps game going.”
Film Session: SIU Edwardsville
While Indiana’s offense is often predicated off quick scores on the secondary break, this weekend’s slate of games in Bloomington showed the Hoosiers are beginning to expand their offensive repertoire in the half court.
We’ll take a look at some set plays from Indiana’s win over SIU Edwardsville in the latest edition of Film Session:
Devonte Green calls out the play as Robert Johnson instructs De’Ron Davis to head to the unoccupied right corner:
Davis makes a move first to the right block:
And as the ball swings to Johnson on the right wing, Davis moves to the corner:
Davis gets the pass in the corner from Johnson. Johnson cuts through to the paint:
Davis makes the pass back up top to Green. Him and Johnson begin to head each other’s way:
Davis sets a screen for Johnson, who goes into the corner:
Green zips the pass into Davis and the Cougars swarms. The defense has already been shying off Thomas Bryant this whole possession, and now they really are. Bryant is wide open on the left wing:
Davis makes the pass:
And Bryant bangs home the triple:
After Sunday night’s contest against Southeast Missouri State, Tom Crean had this to say about Davis passing out of the post: “It’s something we know we’re going to need. We don’t do it a lot in practice just yet. We’ll have more time to do it this week.”
In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich are joined by Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News to recap Indiana’s win over North Carolina. Among the topics discussed:
· How to reconcile the fact that Indiana beat UNC and Kansas but lost to Fort Wayne
· Indiana’s win over North Carolina and how much of a factor the environment was
· The point guard by committee situation and if it can hold up over the course of the season
· The growth of James Blackmon Jr. as a more complete player
· Indiana’s bench and how it is evolving eight games into the season
· The overall state of the Big Ten at this point
· Indiana’s games later this month with Butler and Louisville
Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Southeast Missouri State
Indiana recorded its seventh win on Sunday afternoon, an 83-55 beatdown of Southeast Missouri State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Redhawks:
· Johnson’s strong start continues: Junior Robert Johnson turned in another solid performance on Sunday afternoon with 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes.
Through eight games, Johnson has been one of Indiana’s most efficient offensive players. He’s shooting 43.2 percent on 3s and 69.7 percent on 3s for an effective field goal percentage of 67.1, which ranks 42nd nationally. He still hasn’t solved the turnover issue (22.1 TO%) that’s been present throughout his career, but Johnson is off to a very good start in his third season.
“Rob controls the tempo on the floor,” freshman De’Ron Davis said of his teammate. “And he controls everybody pretty much. As a team we’re working on our communication. But Rob really controls the tempo.”
Indiana’s 2011-12, 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2015-16 teams all ranked in the top 10 nationally in 3-point shooting. In that five-year stretch, the only team that didn’t shoot it well from distance was the 2013-14 group, which missed the postseason altogether.
This year’s team is currently hitting 38.2 percent of its 3s, which is 67th in the country. It’s a number that should improve assuming Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby make a reasonable percentage. And even if the Hoosiers don’t finish the season as one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams, they can make up for it with elite efficiency on 2s and on the offensive glass.
Bryant was posting up hard most of the game, but Indiana wasn’t finding good angles to get him the ball. But rather than letting the lack of touches take him out of the game, Bryant went to work in other areas of the game. This was the result:
· Quietly, Indiana’s defense proving to be above average: It’s not generating a ton of discussion, but eight games in, the Hoosiers have the 32nd best defense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy.
Indiana isn’t forcing turnovers, but is doing everything else well. The Hoosiers are defending without fouling and opponents aren’t getting to the offensive glass, either. It’s a small sample size, but IU’s effective field goal percentage defense is 12th in the country. Last season, the Hoosiers were 168th.
“We’re digging in the post more. We’re getting more connected,” Tom Crean said on Sunday. “But it’s not there 1 through 10 yet by any stretch. And I think that’s where we’ve got to continue to really make strides the best that we can. And so we’ve seen enough in this week to know that it can be there. We’ve seen enough to know that it’s not there.”
· Morgan stepping up in Anunoby’s absence: Indiana is expected to get OG Anunoby back soon, but in his absence, Juwan Morgan is gaining confidence offensively.
Morgan is 12-of-12 from the field over his last two games and owns the team’s best offensive rating right now according to Ken Pomeroy at 132.4. Morgan is just 2-of-9 on 3s this season, but he’s been excellent on the offensive glass and finishing in the paint the last two games.
On Sunday, he finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 22 minutes.
Notebook: Blowout win over SEMO overshadows larger issues
Indiana finished up a stretch of four games in eight days with an 83-55 thrashing of Southeast Missouri State.
The 7-1 Hoosiers led wire-to-wire in a less than capacity Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. With students finishing up semester-long projects and prepping for finals, the Hoosiers were unable to feed off the crowd like they were able to against UNC.
Indiana showed the same flaws that have been apparent throughout the season, particularly when it comes to turning the ball over.
Indiana has committed at least 15 turnovers in all but one game this season, and tonight was no exception. The Hoosiers gave SEMO 18 free possessions, with six different players ending the day with at least two.
“We forced a couple passes,” junior Robert Johnson said. “I think making a simple play is something we’ve got to continue to get better at, making passes one dribble sooner and not waiting. I think the more we just play together, the more connected we’ll get.”
On the season the Hoosiers have turned the ball over on 23 percent of possessions, ranking 324th in the country, per KenPom.
But there were plenty of positives to take away, even after considering the low quality of opponent.
For the fourth consecutive game, Indiana blocked at least six shots and held the opposition to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
The most impressive defensive stretch was at the start of the game, where Indiana held SEMO to two points over the first eight minutes.
“The guys are really talking and active, especially in the one stretch in the first half,” Johnson said. “I think we set the tone early with how we wanted to handle certain guys and take away tendencies.”
Two nights after holding SIU Edwardsville to just seven assists, Southeast Missouri State couldn’t do any better, finishing the game with season-lows in assists (7) and points (55).
Juwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant, and De’Ron Davis continued their recent stretches of solid play, with Davis reaching double-figures scoring for a second straight contest. The Hoosiers made a concerted effort to get the ball into Davis down low, and Crean says he’ll expect more from the freshman as the season progresses, especially when it comes to using his passing abilities when he’s in the post.
“It’s something we know we’re going to need,” Crean said. “We don’t do it a lot in practice just yet. We’ll have more time to do it this week.”
Morgan had another perfect night from the field, hitting all four of his shots to go along with a block, a steal and an assist. Morgan has not missed a field goal since the 7:30 mark of the second half against UNC on Wednesday.
Bryant, meanwhile, took only two shots on the day but contributed in a variety of ways, becoming the second player in Division I this season to post a line of seven points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocks.
After making a hustle play late in the first half, he enthusiastically gave Crean a chest bump.
“Sometimes we have too much self-inflicted pressure because the frustration kicks in. And they’ve had a very long week,” Crean said of the chest bump. “(Bryant) just needed a reminder that it’s okay to have some fun.”
Cleveland drops the hammer
6-foot-6 Antonius Cleveland was one of the lone bright spots for the Redhawks, scoring 13 points and completing a number of highlight plays.
Three of Cleveland’s six made field goals were slam dunks, with the most notable coming at the expense of Zach McRoberts.
OG Anunoby missed his second consecutive game with what Crean has labeled as a “high-ankle sprain,” with the assumption being that his recovery time would be measured in weeks.
“He’s got the boot on. He’s off the crutches. It’s a day-to-day thing, I imagine now,” Crean said. “He couldn’t have played today, but he’s definitely making progress.”
With nearly a week before Indiana next takes the court, Anunoby could well be back in the rotation when the Hoosiers face Houston Baptist next Saturday.