On 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.
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.