Cody Zeller Archive

The curious case of Zeller and Nix: Who’s at fault?

Disclaimer: I find it pretty ridiculous that I am writing these words. I find it even more outrageous that I spent a good portion of my afternoon watching a nine-second video over and over and over again to try to determine if Derrick Nix did or did not hit Indiana’s Cody Zeller on purpose Tuesday night.

But with that being said, it’s an interesting topic for debate the day after one of the best college basketball games of the season.

The play in question, of course, occurred during the second half of Tuesday night’s game. Zeller and Nix were standing side by side in the post, and suddenly Zeller leveled over holding his mid-section and looking to the official for a call. The play was reviewed, but no flagrant foul was called on Nix.

So, what happened? Well, if you watch this video, you’ll see that Zeller has a hold of Nix’s left arm and seems to lightly pull it toward him. Some have called it a “dirty move” by Zeller and perceived that Zeller hit himself in the midsection with Nix’s arm to draw a foul.

My reaction: Seriously? Why would anyone in their right mind (and Zeller’s mind is pretty good) hit himself in that spot?

“If you’re a guy and you’ve ever been hit in that area, you’re not going to want to hit yourself in that area,” Zeller told Doug Gottlieb on CBS Radio Wednesday afternoon.

I’m not necessarily saying Nix did anything terrible on the play either. The contact didn’t look like it was that severe. But from my perspective, Nix is still the one who initiated the contact, despite the fact Zeller’s hand was on his arm.

“I guess that stuff happens,” Zeller told Gottlieb. “I’ve just come to expect it because I’m kind of the marked guy.”

Your thoughts on this ridiculous topic?

Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Purdue

IUPUITH0006Indiana won its third game in seven days on Saturday with an 83-55 romp over rival Purdue at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers scored 1.23 points per possession and limited the Boilermakers to .82 points per trip in the lopsided win.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s fourth straight win over Purdue:

· Will Sheehey shines: After Victor Oladipo went down with a sprained left ankle late in the first half, IU’s sixth man was thrust into a more prominent role and turned in the best offensive effort of his career. Sheehey finished with a career-high 22 points and set a school record by shooting 9-of-9 from the floor. The junior from Stuart, Florida scored 16 of his points in the second half and the damage came from all over the court. Sheehey hit two 3-pointers and scored at the basket, including back-t0-back layups that pushed the lead to 20 at 53-33 with 13:52 to go. Afterward, Sheehey said his increased aggressiveness wasn’t the result of Oladipo’s absence. “I just try to stay aggressive regardless of what the situation is,” he said. “That’s just the way I am as a player.”

· IU made the right call holding Oladipo out for the second half: With a comfortable halftime cushion, Tom Crean decided to hold Oladipo out for the remainder of the game after twisting his ankle with just under a minute to go in the first half. Given the upcoming schedule and Oladipo’s importance in IU’s quest for a deep run in March and April, it was only logical to proceed with caution. Crean said that Oladipo wanted to re-enter the game and the junior even rode a stationary bike near the IU bench to stay warm, but Tuesday’s showdown with Michigan State looming, Oladipo was reduced to the role of cheerleader for the second half. “I just don’t think any of us were comfortable enough to say, ‘let’s go do it.’ He wanted to go back in, but we just weren’t going to do that at that point,” Crean said. “I don’t think that anybody felt, medically, that it was the best thing to do at that point.”

· A.J. Hammons was a non-factor: After scoring 30 points in the first meeting on Jan. 30 in West Lafayette, Purdue freshman A.J. Hammons didn’t score in the first half and finished with just six points on 3-of-10 shooting. Rather than going with Cody Zeller, Crean deployed Christian Watford to slow down Hammons for a different look defensively. The change in strategy paid off as Watford was aggressive and never allowed Hammons to consistently establish position in the post. The defensive performance from Watford was just another example of how he’s evolved from a player who struggled to defend his first two seasons to a veteran that can guard multiple positions. “He can guard anybody,” Crean said. “I’m glad that people are seeing that. He’s got a toughness to him.”

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Silencing the critics: Hoosiers beat top-10 team on the road

IUNDSITH0012In the days following Indiana’s shocking loss at Illinois on Thursday night, Tom Crean spent a good amount of time trying to teach his team how to close out games. The Hoosiers had squandered a late lead against the Illini, and left Champaign with a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss.

Crean showed his team film of the last five minutes of several games this season in which the Hoosiers, as Cody Zeller put it, “played for the clock to run out” instead of playing to win.

The Indiana players heard Crean’s message loud and clear, and they applied it in Sunday’s critical 81-68 victory at No. 10 Ohio State.

“We looked so immature, how we handled that last five minutes of the game,” said junior guard Victor Oladipo. “We’re too old for that, even Yogi [Ferrell]. Yogi’s played enough games now that he’s too old for that. We’ve got to make sure that never happens again.”

So when the No. 1 Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2) built a sizable second-half lead on Sunday, they made sure they didn’t let it go. They answered big Ohio State buckets with scores of their own. They controlled the pace, continued to attack the basket, and looked like a team that expected to win on the road against a quality Big Ten opponent.

There have been wins this season that prove the Hoosiers are a different team than they were last year. The Minnesota first half. The Michigan State game. The Michigan game. The North Carolina game. The Purdue game.

Indiana’s win on Sunday is another one, and perhaps the biggest one. The Hoosiers won at home last year. They beat Purdue on the road last year (albeit, not by 37 points). But it had been 13 years since the Hoosiers beat a top 10 team on the road. Coming off their worst loss of the season, the Hoosiers may have just earned the second biggest win in the Tom Crean era (Kentucky: 2011).

“That’s a big deal,” Crean said. “It’s not just beating a ranked team — Ohio State is really, really good. We have, at times, not had the firepower to compete with them, and then last year as we were getting better, we didn’t have the toughness to compete with them in here. But that’s all part of the growth process.”

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Notebook: Dissecting the decisive final play

IU@ILLITH0017No. 1 Indiana was outscored 13-2 down the stretch Thursday night, so the game’s final play certainly wasn’t the only reason the Hoosiers fell 74-72 at Illinois. But since it was what ultimately ended the game, let’s take a closer look at the way Illinois scored the deciding two.

Brandon Paul, who had scored 21 points, took the ball out for the Illini with Victor Oladipo guarding him. Sam McLaurin lined up in the corner guarded by Cody Zeller. D.J. Richardson, who shot Illinois back into the game late, came off a high screen from Tyler Griffey and wound up well behind the 3-point line on the right wing. Richardson was initially guarded by Yogi Ferrell and Griffey by Christian Watford, but the Hoosiers switched on the screen. Joseph Bertrand was on the other side of the court, guarded by Will Sheehey.

After the initial screen didn’t produce any results, Richardson continued to move toward the right baseline and the inbounder, Paul. Watford attempted to follow Richardson. McLaurin, meanwhile, set a hard screen on Ferrell, and Griffey cut to the basket. But Zeller, who looked like he was supposed to switch with Ferrell after the McLaurin screen, didn’t follow Griffey.

Layup and ballgame.

“It was a broken play for them,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said afterward. “We were not going to give them a chance to set up and win the game on a lob. They were out of timeouts, we had two, I wouldn’t change that for a second, not calling a timeout there. We just didn’t communicate well. … Pressure of the moment a little bit.”

Added Zeller: “I guess it was just a miscommunication. I haven’t seen it yet.”

Hoosiers can’t put the game away

In the end, the Hoosiers lost on Thursday because of a bad defensive breakdown. But they would never have been in that situation if they had continued to execute offensively down the stretch like they had for much of the game. Indiana was so good offensively at times in the game that ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said the Hoosiers were “putting on an offensive clinic” during the halftime show.

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