When sixth man Will Sheehey went down with an ankle injury, Indiana needed another bench player to step up. The “next man up” philosophy that coach Tom Crean and the players often reference was suddenly a reality.
Derek Elston, Tom Pritchard and Remy Abell figured to take the majority of Sheehey’s minutes. But it has been senior Matt Roth — a guy that’s been at Indiana through all the turmoil — who has filled Sheehey’s shoes as well as anyone.
Roth can shoot the ball as well as anybody on the Hoosiers’ roster — and probably the country — but he has been used only sparingly as a 3-point specialist during his time at Indiana.
In previous seasons, Roth battled injuries and had been a defensive liability. The latter didn’t allow Crean the luxury of keeping him on the floor for more than a few minutes.
But with the opportunity created by Sheehey’s absence, Roth has displayed a new focus and effort on the defensive end. Without his work on defense, Roth would likely still be a sparingly-used 3-point specialist — with or without Sheehey.
“It’s helped him stay on the court. That’s the biggest area,” Crean said. “There are teams that they, it happens, they have things that they go to when he’s in the game. … He takes that personal and he’s really trying to build on that. His improvement level is high. He’s getting better, he can get better, and he’s worked extremely hard.”
What changed? Crean said Roth is playing with more toughness than he did in the past.
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Indiana coach Tom Crean wouldn’t say whether sophomore swingman Will Sheehey will play Thursday against Minnesota, but he did say Sheehey has been practicing with the team this week.
Crean continues to say Sheehey is “day-to-day,” but said he is progressing.
“He shot some Saturday night, but Sunday was really the first day that he had gone out and done anything else with the team,” Crean said.
When asked how Sheehey looked in practice, junior forward Christian Watford said “he’s developing good” but he’s “not 100 percent.”
The 6-foot-6 sophomore was injured when he accidentally stepped on a loose ball in practice on Dec. 21. Sheehey is averaging 10.7 points in 20 minutes per game off the bench.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, junior Christian Watford and freshman Cody Zeller met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to preview Thursday’s game with Minnesota at Assembly Hall. Watch both press conferences in the high-definition quality video in the embedded media players below:
Penn State’s Tim Frazier shot an inefficient 7-of-23 (21 points) in Indiana’s win against the Nittany Lions on Sunday. But when he wasn’t shooting jumpers taken on account of the Hoosiers sagging off of him, he was flat-out deadly around the rim (his strength)– even hitting some tough contested lay-ups.
As we’ve noted previously, Indiana is currently the worst defensive team in the Big Ten — it’s allowing 1.11 points per possession and is tied with Iowa, according to StatSheet — and allowed 82 points to Penn State.
So a look at the Hoosiers’ defense is warranted in the latest edition of Film Session.
NO. 1) BLOW-BY
Victor Oladipo sags off Frazier on the perimeter:
Sasa Borovnjak sets a pick for Frazier, but Oladipo goes underneath and easily avoids:
Frazier drops a hesitation move on Oladipo, knocking him off balance:
With the Zellers, competition never bred contempt. The boys are extremely close — Cody and Tyler speak on the phone frequently, especially now that they share the common war story of college basketball.
Instead, competition bred excellence.
Cody may very well wind up the best Zeller, but that could be due as much to his backyard education as to genetics. Luke, older by five years, took no mercy on his kid brother, and his constant beatdowns only made Cody tougher and more comfortable in the body-smashing world of the low post.
Tyler, taller and heavier than Cody, forced him to find ways to shoot over his bigger brother, helping Cody to develop some finesse moves. “Cody has never had a problem asserting himself,” Tyler said. “He’ll go play against anybody and compete against anybody. When it comes to basketball, he’s done just a fantastic job of learning from us, trying to become the best basketball player he can be.”
It is that combination of brawn and touch that attracted so many coaches to Cody. They loved that he had great hands and mobility for a big man, came armed with a nifty jump hook, and could score with his back to the basket and rebound.