The scholarship situation in Bloomington is starting to sort itself out. A couple of weeks ago, the Hoosiers were oversigned by a scholarship and speculation grew on players considering a transfer. First, it was Malik Story. And now, his roommate and fellow freshman Nick Williams has also decided to leave the program.
“After the season, Nick expressed displeasure with his role this year and also shared concern with members of our coaching staff about his future role in the program, ” said Crean. “He is a fine young man and we have enjoyed our relationship with him over time. He played hard and did some very good things for us and we wish him the best.”
The decision by Williams is a curious one considering he originally signed with Marquette and then followed Crean to Bloomington last spring. But when you consider that Maurice Creek is coming into the program, Devan Dumes commands his share of looks and Verdell Jones came into his own down the stretch, Williams, like Story, would likely have taken a tumble down the depth chart. As of right now, IU will enter next season with 12 scholarship players. There is, however, a possibility that another player could be added to the 2009 class as the staff continues to evaluate talent this spring.
Korman’s story also reported that walk-on Broderick Lewis has left the team. The complete release from IU, with more comments from Crean and a quote from Williams, after the jump.
We heard the rumors toward the end of the season. But Malik Story told reporters after IU’s season ending loss to Penn State that he was planning to stick around for another season in Bloomington. Here’s a refresher of what he told Herald Times reporter Jared Poertner immediately after the season ended:
“I’m going to be here. A lot of people say I’m not going to be here, (but) I love my teammates, love my coaches and love this place.”
Not so fast. The freshman wing from California has decided to transfer. Our friend Chris Korman of the H-T/Hoosier Scoop broke the story and has the confirmation from Tom Crean:
“I support Malik and his family’s decision to go to a school that is closer to home. As a parent, I understand the need to be close to family. We have encouraged Malik to continue to take advantage of getting his individual workouts in with our team and to utilize the academic support system he has here at Indiana until the end of the semester.”
This is probably a smart move for Story. If he truly wants to be closer to home, that’s certainly understandable. Bloomington is a far different world from Los Angeles. And furthermore, he likely would have been buried on the depth chart next season behind guys like Nick Williams, Maurice Creek and Christian Watford. For now, we say so long to you, Malik Story. We hardly knew ye.
The first half. Whoa boy: it was tough to watch, even by this year’s standards. Turnover after turnover after turnover. And then a few more turnovers. When the fist half was said and done, IU racked up 15 of ’em. Minnesota snatched nine steals on the Hoosiers during the first half, cutting into the passing lanes for easy deuces. For the game, IU had 26 turnovers.
Breaking the press. When Minnesota decided to go full-court press on IU midway through the second half, they went on an 11-0 run.
IU kept it close on the road against a team that has been ranked for part of the season. This is all coming from a team that started four freshman and Kyle Taber, and were without their leading scorer in Devan Dumes. IU also played great defense, as Minnesota struggled to get anything going on the offensive end.
Like I’ve written about before, tonight was another night where IU’s opponent played down to the Hoosiers’ level. The Golden Gophers had 18 turnovers on the night; they’re averaging 14.
After a Matt Roth three with a little under 13 minutes to go, IU actually had the lead, 34-33. But a win was not to be.
Lastly, props to Malik Story. When IU couldn’t get a darn thing going on the offensive end in the first half, Story tallied 11 of the Hoosiers’ 20 points.
For the first time in a long time — maybe all season? — the Hoosiers looked like they belonged. Despite the high number of turnovers, IU played so crisp and smooth at points, I had to stop and soak it in. Hey, these guys actually look pretty darn good. In the second half as the intensity crept up and Kevin Coble started dropping in ridiculous shots, IU responded time and time again. Unlike so many other games when I just knew no matter how close it was in the end IU was destined to lose, I genuinely thought they had this game. I was screaming as Matt Roth’s three hit the bottom of the net to tie the game with around 30 seconds or so to go. It’s been a while since I’ve been that emotional about this team.
As the announcers said all second half, this was just a flat-out enjoyable college basketball game to watch. It was extremely physical (who knew?), it was intense, it was two basketball teams that were hell-bent on winning.
Devan Dumes had one of his on nights. Try five 3-pointers in the first half and a career high 26 points on 9-of-16 from the field. IU out-rebounded the crap out of Northwestern, 30-19. And perhaps the best stat of the night: IU hit all 11 free throws it took in the second half, including six from Malik Story. For the game, they made 17-of-19. This is good to see.
In what has been a theme throughout this season of rebuilding, the inexperience of Tom Crean’s club shined through down the stretch as Indiana fell 67-63 to Minnesota at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (5-13, 0-6 Big Ten) cut the Minnesota lead to 64-63 with 29 seconds remaining on two free throws by Nick Williams. Indiana immediately fouled Al Nolen, who knocked down two free throws to push the Golden Gopher lead back to three at 66-63.
Crean called for time with 21.8 seconds remaining, but the Hoosiers couldn’t get an open look and ultimately settled for an off-balance 3-point attempt by Devan Dumes that fell short. Minnesota’s Paul Carter grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Verdell Jones and knocked down a free throw to put the game out of reach.
“This is one of the tougher ones to swallow,” Crean said. “They all are. They are miserable for every coach and everybody that is a part of it.”
The loss was the fifth straight at Assembly Hall for Indiana, the longest home losing streak for the Hoosiers since the 1984-1985 season.
Dumes led all scorers with 19 points and was joined in double figures by Malik Story with 14 and Tom Pritchard with 10. Indiana hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, but hit just 11 of 21 free throws with eight misses coming in the second half.
“The numbers we chart in practice would astound you. But it is also an empty Assembly Hall,” Crean said. “It is just part of it. I don’t want to get frustrated with that. We just want to continue to put ourselves in pressure situations in practice. We were shooting 72 percent in the Big Ten going into today’s game.”
Damian Johnson paced Minnesota (17-3, 5-3) with 18 points. Ralph Sampson III added 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Golden Gophers and moved Tubby Smith to 10-4 all-time against Indiana.
“Every time they go out, they don’t give in, they don’t give up,” Smith said of Indiana. “It’s just a matter of sustaining it and consistency, and that’s what he’s getting from his kids. He’s getting a consistent effort. As he continues to recruit he’s going to have a very good team.”
First, a preface: I planned to catch most of tonight’s game via BigTenNetwork.com. I figured the kinks from Friday night would be worked out and it’d be smooth sailing, right? Wrong. There’s a lot of good things about the BTN, but their online “streaming” is not one of them. The picture froze consistently and was basically unwatchable. Final grade: Colossal fail.
Now, onto the action. Our Hoosiers passed their final test before Saturday’s opener with a 72-54 win over DII Bemidji State. It wasn’t a pretty effort on offense as neither team shot particularly well: IU shot 43 percent and the Beavers just 33 percent. IU also left 12 points at the foul line as they hit only 17 of 29 attempts.
Malik Story came off the bench and led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes. Nick Williams and Tom Pritchard joined Story in double figures with 12 points each. Kyle Taber made his triumphant return with four points and nine rebounds. Verdell Jones (3-11 FG, four turnovers) and Devan Dumes (2-10 FG) both struggled.
Tom Crean was still in “let’s see what we have” mode (perhaps this will be an ongoing theme) as 14 different players saw time, including walk-ons Brett Finkelmeier, Evan White, Kipp Schutz, Kory Barnett, Broderick Lewis and Daniel Moore.
Even after two exhibition games, it’s really hard to get an idea of what to expect on Saturday when IU opens the season. The entire team is learning a new system and learning to play with each other. The hustle has been encouraging, but talent ultimately plays a big part in winning and the talent level on this club isn’t that of a typical Indiana team.
So, what say you, ITH’ers? Two exhibition games down and the opener Saturday, what are your observations about this team? Encouraged? Discouraged? Any keys to success that you’ve already identified? Let’s hear it in the comments.