Students’ section? Not right now

So it’s come to my attention that it came to Mike Pegram’s attention that Indiana students aren’t the most reliable folks in the world, nor the most polite.

Indeed, their rather meager attendance and vulgar performance last night wasn’t exactly something to be bragged about. Even if Assembly Hall boasts one of the largest students sections in the country — as it claims to — what does it matter if the thing is only 2/3 full?

I’m not here to defend the vulgar language and chanting. I tend to fall on the side of thinking it’s not a huge deal, considering that it’s the trend pretty much everywhere now.

I’m also perfectly willing to call out students, or at least have been in the past. And I’ll admit to having been one of those vulgar, over-the-top fans in the bygone days of my misspent youth, though mostly at football games, where the heckling was actually more entertaining than the game itself.

But as to attendance, I think we’re all being a little bit harsh. Allow me to illustrate with a pair of stories:


Could defense be Indiana’s greatest strength?

BLOOMINGTON — Some of the old weaknesses remain. Surely, you remember them: the endless string of frustrations, the turnovers and sloppy offensive sets and lack of low-post production.

It helped that no one seemed interested in defending Verdell Jones within five feet of the basket, from his first point to his 27th. And it helped that Christian Watford got more assertive offensively in the second half, taking over during a particularly offense-deprived stretch when IU sorely needed some points.

But what does it say about this team that the fouls (24) can pile up, turnovers can still drag opponents back into games and Indiana is still capable of long scoring droughts (6:53 in the middle of the second half) and yet is still capable of winning by 23 points when the pre-game line hovered around 5.5?

“It just gives us an identity. We’re a defensive team,” Watford said afterward. “We understand that, and we’re willing to work at that.”

Identity … at Indiana … imagine that. Defensive identity to boot. This from the Indiana team that actually gave up as many points last year to Bo Ryan’s perfect-for-the-Big Ten offense in Madison as its football brethren did on Saturday. (A cheap shot, but an illustrative one.)

Indiana closed down Wright State. Outside of a brief bout of offensive success to start the game, the Raiders were smothered. At the first TV timeout, Wright State led 7-4, with a 3-of-5 shooting line. It scored 37 points, and shot a miserable 12-of-41 over the game’s remaining 35:51. The 19 points Wright State scored in the first half marked the lowest number for any opponent in the Crean era.

Not bad, eh?

“We’ve just got to cut down on our turnovers and stuff like that,” Watford added to the end of the aforementioned comment. “We’ll be OK.”

So it’s not all sunshine and light. And I acknowledge that Wright State doesn’t present the challenge of Kentucky, or of Boston College, or even of Penn State. (Maybe of Iowa. Rough night for the Hawkeyes.)


Wright State Postgame Video: Tom Crean, Verdell Jones and Victor Oladipo

Indiana head coach Tom Crean, Verdell Jones and Victor Oladipo met with the media following the Hoosiers’ 67-44 win over Wright State on Sunday night at Assembly Hall. Watch Crean, Jones and Oladipo address the media in the embedded media players below:


The Minute After: Wright State

Notes on a 67-44 Sunday night win over Wright State inside Assembly Hall:

First 10.

Wright State took away the 3-pointer from the Hoosiers. Couple that with its impressive ability to draw charges — and IU’s penchant for silly turnovers and travels; it had six turnovers in the first 10 minutes — and it left the Hoosiers with little to show on the offensive side of the ball.

Maurice Creek went out quick with two fouls. Christian Watford didn’t have anything going offensively early. So the Hoosiers turned to where they have so many times in the past when nothing is cooking: Verdell Jones. He scored IU’s first four points on two drives off the wing.

Near the end of the first 10 minutes, IU was able to get out on the break to open things up a bit. Shortly after entering the ballgame, Victor Oladipo scored on the break off a Wright State turnover, and on another fast break, Jordan Hulls was fouled and hit both free throws.

10-8 Hoosiers.

Second 10.

With the shot clock winding down, Jones bailed out the Hoosiers with their first made three of the night.

And then IU coupled points off the break with free throws by getting into the bonus early. Hulls was fouled on Wright State’s end of the court and made both free throws.

Jones was fouled during an inbounds play, and though he missed the front end of the one and one, Watford grabbed the rebound — IU continues to be a strong offensive rebounding team in the early goings of 2010-11 — and found Jones for another three.

The Hoosiers continued to get free throws — Bobby Capobianco made one of two; Watford hit three of four. Jones got another two points on the break and Vic stole the ball just before half and scored on a slick spin move as time expired.

Another six turnovers for a total of 12 in the first half, but IU’s uptempo attack and free throws  — along with Wright State having trouble creating in their halfcourt offense due to point guard N’Gai Evans being out — saw the Hoosiers with a 30-19 lead going into half.

Jones had 14 points. Vic had six.


Live Blog: Wright State at Indiana

Florida Gulf Coast Postgame Video: Tom Crean and Christian Watford

Indiana head coach Tom Crean and sophomore forward Christian Watford, who scored a career-high 24 points, met with the media following the Hoosiers’ 88-60 season-opening win over Florida Gulf Coast. Watch Watford’s comments as well as Crean’s complete press conference in the embedded media players below:


The Minute After: Florida Gulf Coast

Musing on a 88-60 IU win over Florida Gulf Coast:

Them threes is back.

As I wrote after IU’s first exhibition game, there’s enough 3-point shooters on this team to really do some damage. But as we saw against Ferris State, when they’re contested and don’t come in the flow of the offense, the 3-point shooting percentage can struggle.

Tonight against Florida Gulf Coast, IU did a much better job of stretching the floor, moving the ball and making the extra pass to get the likes of Jordan Hulls open down in the corner for good looks. The Hoosiers started out hot from beyond the arc (8-of-11) and though they cooled off in back half of the first half (0-of-7), they were mostly still smart looks.

Hulls was 6-of-9 from distance for 18 points. He had it tonight.

For the game, IU hit 50 percent (14-of-28) of its 3-pointers. And they shot an impressive 52.6 percent (30-of-57) from the field.

IU’s overall energy was also high from the get go, which allowed them to get up early, and despite a few defensive lapses and turnovers that allowed Florida Gulf Coast to chip away at the lead, the Hoosiers were pretty much in control all evening.

Verdell’s return.

Part of the reason the Hoosiers’ offense opened up tonight was due to the return of Verdell Jones. Jones’ debut saw him taking over point-guard duties from Jordan Hulls, and his ability to get into the lane and draw the defense allowed for less predictability and more variety. And guys like Derek Elston, Tom Pritchard and Christian Watford worked well around the rim with some nice passes for easy looks to vary the attack as well.

Verdell was a little rusty in his debut, as he finished with seven points (3-of-10, 1-of-2 from three), one rebound, two assists, one steal and five turnovers.


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