For seven minutes in Puerto Rico, Indiana looked capable of hanging with Ole Miss.
And just like that, the Rebels reeled off a 28-5 run en route to a comfortable 89-71 win in the opening round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off Classic.
“I thought our guys responded to Indiana coming out and being aggressive, which you would hope an experienced team would do,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We have some experienced guards and made some adjustments.”
Indiana had no answer on the inside for Ole Miss (3-0), which blocked 12 shots, out-rebounded IU 46-43 and shot 51.5 percent from the field.
Murphy Holloway scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Rebels and Chris Warren had 16.
“We tried to get Murph behind the zone, because they got so extended on the perimeter,” Kennedy said of Holloway. “It opened up some opportunities behind the zone.”
The Hoosiers (2-1) committed 21 turnovers, 14 in the first half, and shot just 12 of 27 from the foul line.
“We made too many mistakes to win the game,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They were more physical and we didn’t do a great job of playing through that.”
After trailing by as many as 15 in the second half, Indiana had a chance to cut the lead to six with 5:40 remaining. But an errant pass from Devan Dumes to Jeremiah Rivers on a 3-on-1 fast break ended IU’s 9-2 run.
Maurice Creek led three Indiana players in double figures with 18 points. Verdell Jones added 17 and Rivers had 14. The bench, however, contributed just nine points.
“A loss is a loss,” Jones said. “We just have to come back and improve and get tougher.”
Pick to Click: Jeremiah Rivers
Up next: Boston University at 6:00 ET on Friday.
Tough game for Watford: The freshman from Birmingham (AL) hit just 2 of 10 shots and scored five points. Watford was averaging a double-double in his first two games.
Off the mark from outside: The Hoosiers shot just 3 of 15 from behind the three-point line.
Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels
Date: Thursday, November 19 | 5:00 EST
Arena: Coliseo de Puerto Rico – San Juan, Puerto Rico
Line: Ole Miss by 9
All-time series: First meeting
TV: ESPN 2 (Jon Sciambi and Hubert Davis)
Radio: IU Radio Network (Jeremy Gray and Todd Leary)
- Ole Miss (2-0): Chris Warren, Terrico White, Eniel Polynice, Murphy Holloway, DeAundre Cranston
- Indiana (2-0): Jeremiah Rivers, Verdell Jones, Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Tom Pritchard
As always, game predictions and thoughts are welcome in the comments leading up to tip-off and during the game.
Get in your picks before 4:45 ET on Thursday. Remember, please state your selection first thing in your comment. Good luck and check out our new ITH apparel.
Scoring update: Several people are two for two, so we’ll wait until the scoring thins out a bit at the top to post a leaderboard.
Roth injured: Not that it matters for PTC purposes because he’s yet to be picked, but Dustin Dopirak of The Herald-Times/Hoosier Scoop is reporting that Matt Roth is injured and likely will not play at all in Puerto Rico.
Two games into the 2009-2010 season, we’ve learned little about the Indiana team that should blossom into a respectable squad once conference play rolls around in late December. Sure, the Hoosiers have won two games comfortably, but it’s hard to judge progress against the likes of Howard and USC Upstate. We know IU is better — but how much better? Our understanding of this question will come more into focus Thursday when IU takes the floor with Ole Miss in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off Classic in Puerto Rico.
Plagued by an injury bug that claimed guards Chris Warren, Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice for the season, Andy Kennedy’s admirable coaching job in 2008-2009 led Ole Miss to seven conference wins and a 16-15 record. Warren and Polynice have both recovered from left knee injuries and are joined in the backcourt by sophomore guard Terrico White (pictured), who is projected as a fringe lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
White emerged as Kennedy’s best player as a freshman and averaged 18.4 ppg in conference play on his way to being named the SEC freshman of the year. “Rico,” as he’s called by his coach and teammates, hit close to 50 percent of his two-point attempts as a freshman, but shot just 63 percent from the foul line. Expect Jeremiah Rivers to draw this assignment.
Did anyone else get a minor chill seeing Doc Rivers in Assembly Hall? I can’t explain this at all. I don’t really like Rivers. I’m not sure he’s a great NBA coach so much as a decent NBA coach who happened to luck into Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen at the right time. And after the Bulls-Celtics series last spring, I’m kind of predisposed to hate everything to do with this current Celtics team.
And yet there I was, getting all goosebumpy as John Laskowski nervously interviewed Rivers at halftime. Rivers talked about his son, Jeremiah, his (Doc’s) excitement on his son’s announcement that he was considering Indiana as a destination, and his desire to just be a parent during IU games. He even had the IU hat on. It was pretty cool. And it was probably the most noteworthy thing about IU’s relatively lackluster win over USC-Upstate Monday night.
This year’s Hoosiers present a weird paradox. They’re not last year’s team, as much as Devan Dumes might wish they were. They’re definitely better — you can see the heightened level of play almost immediately, from Rivers to Christian Watford (man, is it nice to have an athletic big man with touch in an IU uniform again) to Derek Elston to Maurice Creek, who might just become my favorite player on this year’s team.
But this year’s Hoosiers are not a good team. There is a long way to go from “better than 6-25″ to “good.” And so while last year a win like Monday night’s might have been cause for minor excitement — IU led by 20! IU scored 69 points! — this year, it feels harder to process. So, am I supposed to be excited that IU seems borderline competent again? Or should I be depressed by the fact that an 18-turnover game at home against USC-Upstate has me considering excitement? See what I mean?
THE GOOD: CHRISTIAN WATFORD AND DEREK ELSTON.
Watford continues to impress. He’s been billed as a guy that can do it all, and this game really highlighted that: he got boards, hit shots, created in the lane, got some steals, a block, and he even brought the ball up the court on one occasion. For the night he had 17 points, 10 boards, two steals and one block. He’s not a dominant player yet, but he has the tools to develop into one.
Elston was a lot of fun to watch tonight. He showed off his range with a 3-ball, and on another one that he missed in the second half, he did a good job of following his shot, which led to a board and a bucket for him. (This is something I don’t remember Matt Roth doing once last season.) Elston also had a nice tip-in follow on a miss from Verdell Jones. He’s got a nice nose for the ball, works hard and is a polished player for a freshman. I’m really liking his game thus far.
THE BAD: THE FIRST HALF, TURNOVERS AND FREE THROWS.
This game had shades of last season, as the Hoosiers racked up 18 turnovers, and only went 16-of-30 from the line. The beginning of the game was particularly rough; the Hoosiers never built any momentum or rhythm and let the Spartans hang around. It was a very sloppy affair. It’s clear Jeremiah Rivers is a terrific passer, but he was a little off this evening as he had four turnovers. It was almost as if he was trying to do too much. IU isn’t going to turn the ball over like this all season, but heading into their first real test of the year against Mississippi on Thursday, it’s a little worrisome.
THE UGLY: DEVAN DUMES.
I feel bad for Dumes. Last year, outside of Tom Pritchard, he was expected to be the man on offense. But this year, with an influx of talent around him, Dumes has to swallow his pride and assume a new role, and it’s not something I’m sure he’s going to handle particularly well, at least to start. With more size on this team, he looks smaller out on the court now, too. He’s still going to pop when he has the chance, but tonight was a particularly rough one for him: in 20 minutes, he had four turnovers — a few that were real ugly — and shot 1-of-6 from the field, 0-of-3 for behind the arc and 0-of-1 from the line. He did have five boards, however.
This is but one game, so it’s a small sample size. Dumes has plenty of time to find his mark.
BONUS: GUS JOHNSON’S SPECS.