Jordan Hulls (19 points, four rebounds), Victor Oladipo (20 points, six rebounds, three steals), Cody Zeller (18 points, six rebounds, three blocks) and Yogi Ferrell (13 points, eight assists) met with the media following Indiana’s 88-81 win over Minnesota on Saturday at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to their postgame comments in the embedded media players below:
STATE 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.”
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.
Indiana closed out 2012 on Monday afternoon with a critical 69-65 road win at Iowa to open the Big Ten season. Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Hoosiers’ 13th win of the season:
· This was IU’s most important win so far: Yes, wins over Georgetown and North Carolina might be “better” in terms of bolstering the NCAA Tournament resume, but given how the Hoosiers started out on the road in the Big Ten a season ago (1-5), it’s fair to call this the most important win so far this season. Indiana, despite its resurgence in 2011-2012 that culminated with a Sweet 16 appearance, finished just 3-6 away from Assembly Hall in conference play. For a team with Big Ten title aspirations, 3-6 isn’t going to get the job done. Even though it was just the first conference game, a loss in Iowa City could have ultimately been the difference between a conference title and finishing as a runner-up. The performance wasn’t pretty, but it builds confidence going into the next three road games, which are games IU needs to take: Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue.
· Christian Watford wasn’t the difference, but he was critical: Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are Indiana’s two best players, but in yesterday’s first half, Christian Watford came up big. The 6-foot-9 forward from Birmingham, who has been notoriously inconsistent throughout his career, had eight points and four rebounds in 15 first half minutes. And as his teammates shot just 1-of-5 from distance in the first half, Watford hit 2-of-3 of his attempts from beyond the arc. Both were in critical spots. After a shaky start that included a missed shot by Zeller followed by a Zeller turnover, Watford knocked in the game’s first points on IU’s third possession. Watford’s second trey gave IU its largest lead of the first half at 29-20 at the 3:11 mark. While it’s impossible to know what to expect from Watford on a game-to-game basis, IU has to be hopeful that yesterday’s performance is the norm rather than the exception.
· Jordan Hulls shot 0-for-10 and still played winning basketball: The same can’t be said for Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble, who shot 1-of-14 and would have been far better served getting the ball to Aaron White and Mike Gesell rather than forcing contested shots. Hulls, on the other hand, took mostly shots in the flow of the offense that just weren’t falling. And despite going scoreless, he filled out the rest of the stat sheet nicely in 22 minutes: six assists, three rebounds, two steals and no turnovers. It’ll be a shock if Hulls goes scoreless again the rest of the way, but Monday afternoon showed that he can still be a productive player even without scoring.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Time and again, No. 5 Indiana built a reasonably comfortable lead, and then let Iowa back in the game. And time and again, Victor Oladipo was there to bail the Hoosiers out.
So it was only fitting that when they needed a huge bucket late to put the pesky Hawkeyes away on the road, Oladipo was the one to get it. With 1:03 remaining and Indiana ahead just 63-60 inside a sold-out and raucous Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Oladipo grabbed a missed shot from Cody Zeller and laid it in to break the spirits of the Iowa players.
“Rebounding is one of my strengths,” Oladipo said. “I just saw Cody shooting it and I saw how it was coming off the rim, and I was in the right place at the right time.”
And then, after a miss by the Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-1 Big Ten) on the other end, Oladipo grabbed another big rebound, his 10th of the game, to go along with 14 points in 34 minutes.
Ballgame. Indiana 69, Iowa 65.
“That’s the exclamation point for our team in that situation,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “That’s just a ‘finding a way to make a play to win a game’ type of situation. I wouldn’t trade [Oladipo] for anybody on finding a way to win with anybody in the country.”
Oladipo has improved in so many areas over the last two years on both ends of the court. But during crunch time on Monday afternoon, it wasn’t his jump shot, his ball handling or his athleticism that helped the Hoosiers (13-1, 1-0) escape with their first win at Iowa during the Crean era. It was Oladipo’s heart and hustle that ultimately pushed Indiana over the top, something he has always brought to the table for this team, even as a raw freshman two seasons ago.
“They’ve been kind of punking us the last couple years, especially here,” Oladipo said. “They’ve been outrebounding us and, basically, just outplaying us. This year, it was kind of the mentality going in here that we were going to take the first punch and play hard.”
Vocal Zeller comes alive in second half
Crean knew he was going to get a productive performance out of Zeller before the team even arrived at the arena. Zeller was much more vocal than normal during the Hoosiers’ walkthrough at the team hotel on Monday morning, and it caught Crean’s attention.
“Some guys, we hear ‘em constantly when we’re going through the other team’s stuff, but he was very vocal,” Crean said. “So we knew he was gonna be a great leader today and I thought that he was.”
Added Zeller: ”That’s what you have to do to win on the road in the Big Ten. That’s definitely one of the things I’ve had to get better at, and I tried to make that an emphasis tonight.”
The Big Ten season tips off tomorrow in Iowa City, but the Hoosiers have already been through a ton since November. Here are five things we learned about the preseason-No. 1 team in the first 13 games of the season.
1. Jordy + Yogi works: One of the top questions leading up to the regular season was whether or not guards Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell could play together in the same backcourt. Some suggested Ferrell would push Hulls aside and steal the majority of his minutes, many believed the two guards were too small to be on the court at the same time.
But so far, Hulls and Ferrell have proven those doubters wrong. They have thrived together during the non-conference schedule because each player has stuck to his own strengths. Ferrell, who has 71 assists and just 27 turnovers, has spent the majority of his minutes finding open teammates and playing tight defense on the other end. Hulls, with much of the ball-handling responsibility now in Ferrell’s hands, has been able to do more of what he’s great at — spot up and shoot. Hulls is shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc this season.
There will be some games during the conference season that test Hulls and Ferrell, but Indiana has plenty of depth off the bench to help with that. And Hulls already has experience defending players much bigger than he is (See: Georgetown).
2. The talent is there: The Hoosiers have the talent to win a national championship. There’s no doubt about that. We knew they would be deep in the preseason, but the scary thing is they haven’t had certain pieces at various times. Hanner Mosquera-Perea is just four games into his college career, Derek Elston missed time with a knee injury, Jeremy Hollowell is currently out due to an NCAA compliance issue, Cody Zeller has dealt with illness, Maurice Creek is out indefinitely with a foot injury, and Austin Etherington is out for the year with a broken patella.
And yet, the Hoosiers have still looked deep. That’s scary for the other teams in the Big Ten and around the country.
3. But…: As talented as the Hoosiers are, they are still very much a work in progress. They can play so much better, and they know it. They’ve been fantastic at Assembly Hall as they usually are, but it may take a few more games for them to figure out how to play away from home.
With nearly a quarter of the season in the books, it’s time to examine the Big Ten’s best thus far in 2012-2013:
Best player – Cody Zeller, Indiana
Truth be told, Zeller’s numbers have fallen in line fairly closely with how he finished up last season. He’s currently averaging 15.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and is shooting over 64 percent from the field. There’s certainly a case to be made for Deshaun Thomas as the Big Ten’s best player to-date, but Zeller gets the edge because his play has led the Hoosiers to an 8-0 start and a no. 1 national ranking with wins over North Carolina and Georgetown.
Also considered: Thomas, Ohio State; Trey Burke, Michigan
Best freshman – Nik Stauskas, Michigan
If you had the Canada native as your freshman of the year coming into the season, we’d like to see your preseason ballot. Overshadowed by Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary in the Wolverines’ 2012 recruiting haul, Stauskas is averaging 14.2 points per game, is hitting close to 96 percent of his free throws and is shooting a ridiculous 63% on 3-point attempts. As a result, he’s captured two straight Big Ten freshman of the week awards and his efficiency is a big reason for Michigan’s 7-0 start and rise to No. 3 in both polls.
Also considered: Robinson III, Michigan; Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Best distributor – Trey Burke, Michigan
This one isn’t really close when you look at the numbers. Burke is averaging seven assists per game and is second in the league in assist rate at 37.6. Much like the balance currently being displayed in Bloomington, Michigan has a plethora of offensive options like Tim Hardaway Jr., Stauskas, Robinson III that Burke is finding with regularity. Also of note: His turnover rate is down slightly from a season ago.
Also considered: Yogi Ferrell, Indiana; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Shannon Scott, Ohio State; Jordan Hulls, Indiana
Best defender – Aaron Craft, Ohio State and Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Craft entered the season as the Big Ten’s reigning pest on defense and has done nothing to warrant losing that badge of honor. He continues to change games with his on ball defense and if you surveyed guards around the country, he’d be at the top of the list of the guys that nobody wants to face. But Oladipo also deserves recognition here. His 2.2 steals per game is second in the Big Ten and his steals percentage (5.07) is third in the league. Oladipo’s prowess on defense is no longer just potential: It’s reality.
Also considered: Branden Dawson, Michigan State; Austin Hollins, Minnesota