Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 23 Butler in the annual Crossroads Classic, Tom Crean said he already has known for a while what the game will come down to.
“Rebounding will be a huge factor in the game tomorrow,” he said on Friday. “No matter who wins it, that number is going to probably have a lot to do with it.”
Indiana’s rebounding issues have been well-documented this season — the Hoosiers allow opponents to rebound 35 percent of their misses, ranking No. 274 in the country as of Friday afternoon. Butler, meanwhile, rebounds 35.2 percent of its misses — ranking in the top 75 in the nation. Indiana has had time to prepare, though.
With final exams this week, the Hoosiers have not played since Saturday against Grand Canyon — leaving them time to prep for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In that span, sophomore Collin Hartman said, Crean has come up with a game plan for the Bulldogs. A plan the Hoosiers are quite confident in.
“We have a great game plan,” Hartman said. “We just have to focus on staying with them and defending. They’re a tough team. They play hard, they crash the boards. We have to box out and run with them on the floor. Just stay to us and focus on what we need to do and our own game plan.”
What caught the Hoosiers’ attention the most about Butler this season stemmed from its 74-66 win over North Carolina — in which the Bulldogs had 28 offensive rebounds against the then No. 5-ranked team in the country. In that game, 6-foot-9 Kameron Woods led the team with eight offensive boards. Just behind him, a name Indiana is all-too familiar with: 6-foot-4 junior Roosevelt Jones, with six.
Indiana sophomore forward Devin Davis, who continues to rehab following an accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, is expected to return to school next semester according to Hoosiers coach Tom Crean.
In an interview on Thursday afternoon on the Dan Dakich Show on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, Crean said that Davis, who was struck by a car driven by Emmitt Holt back in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, should be enrolled for the spring semester that begins on Jan. 12.
“At what duration and classes wise, that still remains to be seen,” Crean said. “He’s still very much in the healing process and he’s going to be in the healing process. I know how much he misses it and he’s been through an awful lot trying to respond to this.
“There’s really not a lot he can do when you’re dealing with the brain. He’s just trying to do everything he can possibly do, but at the same time, it’s truly about the healing for his brain.”
Davis, who averaged 2.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game as a freshman, has been at several IU games in recent weeks and has joined the team on the floor during huddles.
On Monday evening, Indiana coach Tom Crean spoke at his weekly radio show hosted by Don Fischer and recapped the Hoosiers’ games against Louisville and Grand Canyon, while also looking ahead to finals week and the Butler game on Saturday.
Below are news and notes from what the Hoosiers’ coach had to say:
· Heading into Indiana’s game against Grand Canyon, Crean took note that it appeared his team did not lose focus by the lower-quality opponent following the game against No. 4 Louisville on Tuesday. When teams get distracted and don’t take each opponent seriously, Crean said, the team loses sight of improvement and the distraction starts to seep into practices. But against the Antelopes, the Hoosiers maintained focus. And Crean said it’s important the team continues to show that moving forward.
· Indiana’s second-half performance against Grand Canyon was exactly what Crean was hoping for, especially after a first half in which the Hoosiers went 5-of-15 from plays through the paint. In the first half, the Hoosiers took too many shots after relaxing instead of playing for the best shot, and they led just 42-31 at the break. But in the second half, Crean noted, his team “dug a bit deeper” and played to get the best shot. The result: a 28-point win and a 37-of-43 rate from plays that went through the paint in the second half.
· Crean said that he has seen freshmen James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson go “through walls already” in their short time in Bloomington, and that the two (along with freshman Max Hoetzel) don’t stop working. In fact, Crean found the three on the court on Sunday — an off day — in a full sweat in between study halls.
· When asked about Blackmon’s continued improvement, Crean said he is a great learner. After each practice, Crean said he asks “What did you learn today?” And the Hoosiers’ coach always enjoys to hear his responses. As far as what Crean hopes Blackmon will improve on most: stepping back more – allowing more spacing for his 3-point shots.
Following Indiana’s 94-66 win over Grand Canyon on Saturday afternoon, Tom Crean was asked about his team’s turnovers.
The Hoosiers coach paused. He smiled.
“Crazy,” Crean said. “Beyond belief. We’ll have to go back through the tape, see if that’s actually accurate, because, man, I never coached a team that had that few.”
Indiana’s four turnovers on Saturday were the fewest ever by a team coached by Crean. The turnover percentage: just 5.7.
After ranking No. 330 in the nation last season in turnover percentage — averaging a 21.8 percent rate — the Hoosiers thus far this season are now ranked in the top 40 in the NCAA (17.0 percent, No. 37). It’s a number that, more than anything, shows promise to Crean.
“It’s a fast paced game and we wanted to play fast,” he said. “So I think that’s a big step. What that does is put the pressure on players to know they can do it.”
All four Indiana turnovers against the Antelopes came in the first half — one in which the Hoosiers struggled to pull away despite a 1.17 points per possession rate. It was the second half in which the Hoosiers dominated.
Check out 20 photos by Jamie Owens from Indiana’s 94-66 win over Grand Canyon at Assembly Hall in the embedded photo gallery after the jump. See more images and purchase prints from J. Scott Sports.
Back when Tom Crean was a student at Central Michigan University in the late 1980s, the Chippewas at the time had a star basketball player in the making.
6-foot-6 Dan Majerle was just a year older than Crean and went on to have a 14-year NBA career that featured three All-Star Game appearances, an Olympic medal and a gold medal at the 1994 FIBA World Basketball Championship. Of course, Crean immediately went into coaching following his time at CMU.
“He was a heck of a lot more popular in what he did,” Crean joked on Friday. “We got to be friends and I’ve enjoyed following his career for a long time.”
Later this afternoon the two will meet as Grand Canyon — led by Majerle in his second season — plays Indiana at 5 p.m. in Assembly Hall.
And even though the Antelopes have gotten off to a 4-5 start this season, Crean knows exactly what challenge the Hoosiers are in for.
“I am a big fan of his career,” Crean said. “One of the most competitive people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing or watching. He brought that out in the way that he played and really was a great example for me for all the years as a coach because here’s a guy that came into college, is basically an inside player, but because of his hard work and because of all the extra time that he spent shooting the ball and working on his game, he made himself into a NBA guard. That’s an incredible thing.
“One of the all-time leading 3-point shooters in the NBA, he’s played in the NBA Finals, numerous wins. I don’t think it was any question to people who knew him that if he chose to coach, he would be a very, very good coach and I think he’s showing that.”
Indiana knew it would get severely challenged on Tuesday night against No. 4 Louisville in Madison Square Garden.
It knew the Cardinals attack the boards and force turnovers. The Hoosiers were going to do all they could to combat it.
It was not enough as Louisville (8-0) defeated Indiana (7-2) by a 94-74 score. The Cardinals rebounded 52.0 percent of their misses. They also forced 19 Hoosiers turnovers and an Indiana season-high 24.6 turnover percentage.
“They deserved to win, they did a great job and I’m sure we’ll find some bright things on it from the tape,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “Right now I don’t see it that way, but we’ve got to be much more competitive on the glass and we have to play with a higher level of intelligence and a higher level of toughness in other areas to improve and get better and to be able to challenge teams like that and be able to play in our league the way we need to play.”
For the first half and opening five minutes of the second half, the Hoosiers actually proved to be competitive against the Cardinals — a team that came into the game ranked No. 2 in defense in the country.
From the start, the Hoosiers struggled with turnovers and allowing offensive rebounds. But their shooting kept them in it.