Christian Watford Archive

HD Video: IU players react to win over Michigan State

Yogi Ferrell (11 points, three assists), Victor Oladipo (21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, three blocks) and Christian Watford (12 points, six rebounds) met with the media following Indiana’s 75-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday at Assembly Hall.

Watch and listen to the press conference in the embedded media player below:

Quotes available after the jump.

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Hoosiers ready for physical game with No. 13 Michigan State

012612ieAfter last season, you figured maybe Michigan State would take a step back in the Big Ten. The Spartans lost the heart and soul of their team in Draymond Green, a guy who tortured Big Ten teams and fans for four years.

But here come the Spartans, sitting atop the conference rankings with a 6-1 league record and a No. 13 ranking as they prepare to enter Assembly Hall for Sunday afternoon’s showdown with No. 7 Indiana. On paper, it’s the same old competitive Michigan State team.

“I’m used to the Tom Izzo that’s gloom and doom and ‘the sky is falling’ and he’s only happy when he’s miserable,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Saturday. “And reading some of the comments coming out of Michigan, those guys are really excited to play. That’s nerve-wracking.”

Green is gone, but almost everyone else is back, including explosive point guard Keith Appling. The 6-foot-1 Appling nearly single-handedly beat the Hoosiers (17-2, 5-1) in the teams’ first meeting a year ago in East Lansing, going for a season-high 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

In his only career game at Assembly Hall, though, Appling scored only six points on 2-of-6 shooting.

“He’s the guy who beat us a year ago,” Crean said. “He’s tremendous. He can turn it on at any point in time. He’s excellent in transition, he wants to get to the foul line for his pull-up jumper. He’s delivering the ball, he’s getting to the rim, he’s just creating a lot of havoc.”

Added senior guard Jordan Hulls: “Lot better shooter. He’s added that to his game and he’s very explosive in transition, just getting to the rim or pulling up. We know we have to try and contain him.”

The problem for Indiana is, Appling is not the Spartans’ only weapon. Not even close. He’s joined in the backcourt by Indiana native and 2012 Indiana Mr. Basketball, Gary Harris, who is averaging 12.3 points per game in his freshman campaign. He’s also shooting nearly 39 percent from 3-point range.

“He’s very athletic, likes to get to the rim,” Hulls said. “We just have to do a good job of keeping him outside and not letting him get penetration. He’s a very capable 3-point shooter and he can play different areas on the floor. You just have to be aware of him.”

The backcourt matchup should be interesting considering the Hoosiers usually start Hulls and Yogi Ferrell, two guys right around 6-foot. Either Appling or Harris is going to be a difficult matchup for Hulls, so whoever he guards could dictate who Michigan State (17-3, 6-1) runs its offense around.

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Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Minnesota

IUMinnITH0012It was pretty for one half and ugly for a good part of the other, but the No. 5 Hoosiers withstood a rally from No. 8 Minnesota on Saturday afternoon to prevail 88-81 and moved to 15-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s sixth straight win:

· Indiana’s first half was their best of the season: 52 points against one of the nation’s top 15 defenses? That’s what the Hoosiers managed in the first 20 minutes on Saturday. But equally as impressive was Indiana holding the Gophers, also a top 15 offense, to just 29 points before intermission. As Dan Dakich remarked on Twitter, Indiana’s first half defense may have been the best effort we’ve seen in college hoops this season. Minnesota did shoot nearly 46 percent in the first half, but Indiana never made anything easy, was able to force 12 turnovers and allowed just five second chance points to the nation’s best offensive rebounding team. 

· Victor Oladipo deserves to be in the national player of the year race: It wasn’t the best night defensively for IU’s star junior guard, and he admitted as much in his postgame remarks, but Oladipo’s first half set the tone for the game. He was 6-of-6 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and added two rebounds, two assists and two steals. As he’s done for much of the season, Oladipo made off balance looks around the basket look easy. Prior to the season, Oladipo was viewed as a very good defender who was somewhat limited by a one-dimensional offensive game. He’s morphed into a player that can consistently do damage in the halfcourt. A performance like Saturday’s should vault Oladipo into the national player of the year discussion.

· Yogi Ferrell played like a veteran: Saturday’s performance might have been Ferrell’s best of the season. Offensively, he was effective going to the basket with both hands and finished with 13 points, just one short of his season-high of 14 against Georgetown. After having a shot erased at the rim by Trevor Mbakwe less than three minutes in, Ferrell didn’t get discouraged. He kept attacking and finished the first half with three layups which is impressive when you consider the size he was giving up to the Minnesota front line. He was also the facilitator on three of Indiana’s seven first half 3-pointers and assisted on seven of IU’s 21 first half field goals. Ferrell logged a team-high 37 minutes, which also happened to be a career-high. “He leads by example and he leads with his defense and he is a great teammate but he has got to get more verbal,” Tom Crean said of his freshman point guard. “That’s the next step for him.”

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It wasn’t pretty, but Hoosiers earn important conference win

IUMinnITH0005On Friday afternoon, Tom Crean talked about the challenge his team was going to face against a physically-imposing Minnesota team. The Hoosiers have seen tough, physical teams before, but the Gophers were on another level than Indiana’s other opponents thus far.

In the first half, though, No. 5 Indiana had few problems. The Hoosiers (15-1, 3-0) beat No. 8 Minnesota at its own game, and were incredibly effective on the offensive end. They couldn’t have played much better in the first 20 minutes.

“We knew the things we had to do were take care of the basketball, we had to guard the 3s, and we did none of it in the first half,” said a frustrated Minnesota coach Tubby Smith afterward.

But little did the Hoosiers know, they would be in a fight for their lives in the second half. Indiana lacked some of the intensity it showed to start of the game, and the Gophers (15-2, 3-1) looked like an entirely different team. They played like a team with nothing to lose, guarding Indiana all over the court and playing every bit as physical as Crean expected.

You wouldn’t have known the Hoosiers were prepared for it. At times in the second half, it they looked like they had never seen a press before. They turned the ball over, they stood around, and they failed to match Minnesota’s physicality.

“We didn’t attack it correctly. We just didn’t,” Crean said. “We got caught up in getting it down the court rather than how we were going to get it down the court. We didn’t do a great job with our spacing, we didn’t do a great job with the in-bounds. I’ll blame myself for not having enough screening. They were very, very physical. A couple times, it was hard to get open.”

It was more than just a couple times. The Gophers almost entirely erased a 23-point halftime deficit, cutting Indiana’s lead to just three with 19 seconds remaining. It was closer than it ever should have been, and it looked like the Hoosiers were melting down on their home floor.

At the end of the day, though, Indiana got a win against at top-10 team at home, and that cannot be forgotten. Sure, the Hoosiers have plenty of areas in which they must improve in the next two months, but that’s part of the beauty of what they were able to accomplish on Saturday. Even with their second half struggled and absolutely no production for their bench, the Hoosiers beat a very good Minnesota team.

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Five takeaways from Indiana’s win at Penn State

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Indiana started off 2013 with an impressive performance as the Hoosiers crushed Penn State 74-51 on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s fifth straight win:

· What road problems? Yes, Indiana finished 3-6 last year on the road in the Big Ten. But dating back to last season, the Hoosiers are now 4-1 over their last five true road games and comfortably dispatched of Penn State on Monday. The Nittany Lions might finish in the Big Ten’s cellar, but the win moved IU to 2-0 in the league and most impressive of all, the start to this game left little doubt on the eventual outcome. After trailing 3-2 following a 3-pointer from Brandon Taylor, IU reeled off a 13-0 run and maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the way. Two straight road wins to open the conference season will certainly build confidence from within that this group can continue to win away from Assembly Hall.

· An assertive Watford is a major plus: After IU’s win at Iowa, I wrote that Christian Watford wasn’t the difference in the win, but he was a critical factor. In State College, Watford was even more assertive offensively early than he was in Iowa City. In the game’s opening four minutes, Watford finished two plays at the rim (one of which resulted in a 3-point play) and also buried a 3-pointer. Watford has been criticized frequently for failing to finish plays around the basket, but his field goal percentage at the rim has increased from 54 percent last season to 58 percent so far this year. After failing to record a rebound in IU’s win over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 22, Watford now has 22 rebounds over his last three games.

· Indiana fills it up from the perimeter: It wasn’t nearly the performance put forth last January at Penn State, but IU used the 3-point line efficiently on Monday and it was a collective effort. In total, five different players connected from distance, including Jordan Hulls, who bounced back from an 0-for-10 performance from the field at Iowa. Victor Oladipo connected on his only 3-point attempt and is now at 47.8 percent on the season. Remy Abell continues to take the perimeter shot when it’s available and is now 12-of-20 from outside after shooting just 6-of-15 last season. In total, Indiana now has five players with eleven or more 3-pointers made and Will Sheehey owns the lowest percentage at 39.4.

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Notebook: Watford’s start fuels IU in comfortable road win

IUJackITH0006STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Christian Watford set the tone with a 13-point first half Monday and the Hoosier defense took care of the rest as No. 5 Indiana set down an overmatched Penn State team, 74-51.

Thanks mostly to Watford, the Hoosiers (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) were hot early against the Nittany Lions (8-6, 0-2).

Indiana led 44-27 at halftime and despite a sloppy second half that included 13 turnovers, the Hoosiers prevailed easily in front of 9,386 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Eight of the Hoosiers’ first ten points in the game came from Watford.

“We wanted to get him going. We went to him right off the bat,” Tom Crean said. “That was a big part of our gameplan. And he responded.”

Penn State only led once, 3-2 at the 18:20 mark of the first half, but Indiana would quickly get the best of the Lions, reeling off a 13-0 run from there.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, wanted to get in the paint and get some easy buckets to start off,” Watford said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me and we executed some plays and took it from there.”

Though the second half produced a more balanced score (30-24) and Watford only scored three more points, Indiana had an answer every time Penn State scored. The longest run of unanswered points the Lions could muster was six, and the rest of their runs were no greater than 3-0.

“I’m really proud of our team’s effort defensively, on the road, to come in and hold a team to under 32 percent shooting,” Crean said.

When it was all said and done, the Hoosiers outshot the Nittany Lions 52.4 percent to 31.7 percent, with four starters finishing in double figures.

Hulls bounces back

It’s not like senior guard Jordan Hulls to endure an 0-for-10 shooting night, which he did on Dec. 31 in the Hoosiers’ 69-65 win at Iowa.

As such, the senior bounced back in a big way against Penn State, knocking down four of six field goals, including two of three 3-pointers, and finished with 14 points.

“I was in [the gym] quite a bit, yeah,” Hulls said with a laugh, “but nothing really changed. Those games happen and we were able to get a win – that’s all I really care about.”

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HD Video: Hulls, Watford react to win at Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Christian Watford (16 points, eight rebounds) and Jordan Hulls (14 points) met with the media following Indiana’s 74-51 win over Penn State on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Watch and listen to reaction from both IU seniors in the embedded media players below:

Tim Gilbert is a sophomore at Penn State majoring in print journalism and is a Daily Collegian copy/wire editor.