BLOOMINGTON — I’m sitting here in front of my computer, and trying to figure out what to write, and it is next to impossible.
We could touch on Tom Pritchard’s impressive day (Five blocks? Dang.), or Maurice Creek’s return to the top of the scoring charts (19), or the improved turnover numbers (just three in the second half). All would be acceptable, and easy to write, but we’re looking for more penetrating insight here.
So this will probably disappoint: Indiana is just a normal team, with some handy strengths.
The Hoosiers are now 4-0, with four wins that, overall, felt rather comfortable. Evansville took Indiana out of its offense Sunday afternoon, and the Hoosiers battled first-half foul trouble. But as it has thus far, the defense showed up, sparking a 22-0 run in the second half that kept the Aces at arms length the rest of the day.
Creek’s day was important, both in the moment (a run of 3-pointers early in the second half was the catalyst for Indiana’s run) and obviously, in the larger conversation about this season. It’s one half in eight, but glimpses of the old Creek will make for a happy Hoosier Thanksgiving.
Tom Pritchard’s haters aside, the big man had hands-down his best game Sunday, scoring eight with eight rebounds and five blocks. More than that, he played the entire second half with three fouls already on his line, and never committed another.
Verdell Jones rallied from a five-point, seven-turnover outing last Tuesday to score 18. He turned the ball over a team high-but-much-more-palatable four times.
If these storylines seem unexciting to you, it’s only because they are. And that’s sort of the point.
Thoughts on a 67-54 win over the Evansville Purple Aces:
Can the Hoosiers put it together for a full 40 minutes?
That’s the challenge heading forward.
After a first half thick with turnovers (12), fouls (three each for Bobby Capobianco, Tom Pritchard and Christian Watford) and only 25 points (thanks to Evansville’s defense taking away perimeter shooting which equaled minimal shot attempts for IU), the Hoosiers put together arguably their finest stretch of the season in the second half — at one point ripping off a 27-2 run on the Purple Aces.
Maurice Creek was a big catalyst. The sophomore hit three 3-pointers early in the second frame (after IU only attempted three the entire first half) and was fouled on another 3-point attempt in which he hit all three free throws.
Creek also scored on a nice left-handed runner off the backboard later in the half, along with another three with just under two minutes left to seal the deal.
For the game, Creek scored 18 points (5-of-10 from the floor, 4-of-7 from three, 5-of-5 from the line).
In addition, IU clamped down hard on defense and Evansville’s offense was stymied for most of the second half.
But most impressive was the way the Hoosiers took care of the ball. After giving it away 12 times in the first 20 minutes, only three miscues occurred in the second half for a total of 15.
Yes, it’s true, Inside the Hall is adding to our media arsenal a weekly podcast. It’s not Bill Simmons — yet — but hopefully it fills a little bit of a void in the IU basketball world. Every Thursday morning, we’ll post a new installment of the podcast, hosted by this ginger and featuring all manner of Indiana basketball-related guests.
This round, we kept it simple, seeing as it was our first go at this foolishness. Dustin Dopirak, Indiana beat writer for the Bloomington Herald-Times and long-time friend of Inside the Hall, joined us in the ITH studios (my back porch) to chat about recruiting and the current team. We touched on Yogi Ferrell, Gary Harris and Jeremy Hollowell, Christian Watford, Maurice Creek and defense, among other things.
So give it a listen. Let us know what you think. Given that this is our first try, we absolutely value (and in fact beg you for) your opinion. Enjoy, and holler back. Also, much love to Peter Stevenson for acting as de facto producer for our first show.
(Alex’s Note: Little did Zach know, there was once, an Inside the Hall podcast. 3 episodes in fact. Waaaaay back in 2007. Good times.)
BLOOMINGTON — Let it be pointed out that, on the night Tom Crean cemented his first-ever 3-0 start at Indiana, his team struggled.
The Hoosiers shot barely over 38 percent, Verdell Jones had more turnovers (7) than points (5) and Will Sheehey, of all people, starred. And for the briefest of moments, Indiana looked troubled, but it didn’t last.
This team is starting to build some constants, expected results upon which it can depend.
The defense continues to impress. Tuesday night, Indiana forced 23 turnovers and, while it also committed 17, won the points-off-turnovers battle 32-9. Mississippi Valley State shot just 34 percent overall and hit 7-of-21 threes, after shooting 10-of-17 in a near-upset against Georgia.
More than that, however — and as it has done in significant stretches this season — the Hoosiers’ defense covered when their offense was flagging. On a night where Christian Watford, Verdell Jones and Maurice Creek combined to shoot 9-of-31, their team rarely looked troubled, particularly in a dominant early second half.
Coming out of the break up just four, the Hoosiers limited their guests to just three points over the second half’s first 9 1/2 minutes, all while a 27-23 lead ballooned to 49-26.
“You’ve got to play through offensive lulls. You’ve got to play through bad offensive nights,” Crean said afterward. “To come out and play great team defense, to come out and get better defensively as the game goes on … that’s maturity.”
Watford also continues to be a rock. He still looks unsure of himself at times, growing into his new role operating along the wings and perimeter, but he hasn’t scored less than 17 points in any game — after a wildly impressive preseason — and is averaging eight rebounds per contest. Simply, he’s a kind of player Crean has never had at Indiana.
Wright State took away the 3-pointer from the Hoosiers. Couple that with its impressive ability to draw charges — and IU’s penchant for silly turnovers and travels; it had six turnovers in the first 10 minutes — and it left the Hoosiers with little to show on the offensive side of the ball.
Maurice Creek went out quick with two fouls. Christian Watford didn’t have anything going offensively early. So the Hoosiers turned to where they have so many times in the past when nothing is cooking: Verdell Jones. He scored IU’s first four points on two drives off the wing.
Near the end of the first 10 minutes, IU was able to get out on the break to open things up a bit. Shortly after entering the ballgame, Victor Oladipo scored on the break off a Wright State turnover, and on another fast break, Jordan Hulls was fouled and hit both free throws.
With the shot clock winding down, Jones bailed out the Hoosiers with their first made three of the night.
And then IU coupled points off the break with free throws by getting into the bonus early. Hulls was fouled on Wright State’s end of the court and made both free throws.
Jones was fouled during an inbounds play, and though he missed the front end of the one and one, Watford grabbed the rebound — IU continues to be a strong offensive rebounding team in the early goings of 2010-11 — and found Jones for another three.
The Hoosiers continued to get free throws — Bobby Capobianco made one of two; Watford hit three of four. Jones got another two points on the break and Vic stole the ball just before half and scored on a slick spin move as time expired.
Another six turnovers for a total of 12 in the first half, but IU’s uptempo attack and free throws — along with Wright State having trouble creating in their halfcourt offense due to point guard N’Gai Evans being out — saw the Hoosiers with a 30-19 lead going into half.
So I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t visually see any of Monday’s exhibition against Ferris State, though I did listen to basically the entire second half through the watchful words of Don Fischer (and Royce Waltman). So, uneducated as I might be, let me pose a question you might find puzzling: Isn’t this game better for Indiana, given the way it turned out? Let’s dig past the surface reactions of “Wow, that was really close,” and “Don’t good teams find ways to win?” Consider the following, which we learned about Indiana tonight and wouldn’t have before:
+ First of all, as Ryan touched upon, Victor Oladipo is a gamer. He won’t lead the team in scoring or rebounding or assists, but he’s already a fan favorite. More importantly, for the time being anyway, he’s proven to his coach that he’s a guy Indiana can count on when the stakes are highest.
+ After a veritable barrage last Wednesday, we learned tonight that Indiana does not have the wherewithal to lean heavily on the 3-point shot. Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, Maurice Creek, (Matt Roth if he’s OK, which by the way Fischer talked about it seems a tough pill to swallow) all of them are talented shooters. But 7-for-27 speaks for itself — this team has to create higher percentage looks.
+ Indiana must improve against the zone. Period. Fischer and Waltman hammered at it in the second half, and shooting south of 37 percent from the floor would indicate their analysis was on target.