This is what this Hoosiers team can be. Running the break efficiently, not letting teams get set up on D, pushing the pace, getting controlled buckets in transition with Jeremiah Rivers and Verdell Jones leading the charge. It actually looked slow to me at points, because IU wasn’t trying to do too much — just simply taking what they were offered.
Rivers had a nice play during this stretch, as he grabbed an air ball and went coast to coast. But then Ole Miss turned up the pressure, started dominating inside, starting hitting shots, blocking IU’s shots, and IU began turning the ball over at an alarming rate. What was once a 20-11 lead quickly became a double-digit deficit.
Ole Miss just had too much to throw at the Hoosiers. They blocked a ridiculous 12 shots on both lines (starters DeAundre Cranston and Eniel Polynice had two each; Terrico White had one, while the bench picked up the remaining seven), and scored at will in stretches. They overpowered IU. The Hoosiers were able to make mini-runs here and there — something last year’s team would not have done — and had it to 69-61 with a bit over 5:00 to go. But after yet another turnover on a fast break (an errant Devan Dumes pass), that was basically it for their chances at a comeback.
For seven minutes in Puerto Rico, Indiana looked capable of hanging with Ole Miss.
And just like that, the Rebels reeled off a 28-5 run en route to a comfortable 89-71 win in the opening round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off Classic.
“I thought our guys responded to Indiana coming out and being aggressive, which you would hope an experienced team would do,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We have some experienced guards and made some adjustments.”
Indiana had no answer on the inside for Ole Miss (3-0), which blocked 12 shots, out-rebounded IU 46-43 and shot 51.5 percent from the field.
Murphy Holloway scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Rebels and Chris Warren had 16.
“We tried to get Murph behind the zone, because they got so extended on the perimeter,” Kennedy said of Holloway. “It opened up some opportunities behind the zone.”
The Hoosiers (2-1) committed 21 turnovers, 14 in the first half, and shot just 12 of 27 from the foul line.
“We made too many mistakes to win the game,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They were more physical and we didn’t do a great job of playing through that.”
After trailing by as many as 15 in the second half, Indiana had a chance to cut the lead to six with 5:40 remaining. But an errant pass from Devan Dumes to Jeremiah Rivers on a 3-on-1 fast break ended IU’s 9-2 run.
Maurice Creek led three Indiana players in double figures with 18 points. Verdell Jones added 17 and Rivers had 14. The bench, however, contributed just nine points.
“A loss is a loss,” Jones said. “We just have to come back and improve and get tougher.”
Pick to Click: Jeremiah Rivers
Up next: Boston University at 6:00 ET on Friday.
Tough game for Watford: The freshman from Birmingham (AL) hit just 2 of 10 shots and scored five points. Watford was averaging a double-double in his first two games.
Off the mark from outside: The Hoosiers shot just 3 of 15 from behind the three-point line.
Did anyone else get a minor chill seeing Doc Rivers in Assembly Hall? I can’t explain this at all. I don’t really like Rivers. I’m not sure he’s a great NBA coach so much as a decent NBA coach who happened to luck into Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen at the right time. And after the Bulls-Celtics series last spring, I’m kind of predisposed to hate everything to do with this current Celtics team.
And yet there I was, getting all goosebumpy as John Laskowski nervously interviewed Rivers at halftime. Rivers talked about his son, Jeremiah, his (Doc’s) excitement on his son’s announcement that he was considering Indiana as a destination, and his desire to just be a parent during IU games. He even had the IU hat on. It was pretty cool. And it was probably the most noteworthy thing about IU’s relatively lackluster win over USC-Upstate Monday night.
This year’s Hoosiers present a weird paradox. They’re not last year’s team, as much as Devan Dumes might wish they were. They’re definitely better — you can see the heightened level of play almost immediately, from Rivers to Christian Watford (man, is it nice to have an athletic big man with touch in an IU uniform again) to Derek Elston to Maurice Creek, who might just become my favorite player on this year’s team.
But this year’s Hoosiers are not a good team. There is a long way to go from “better than 6-25” to “good.” And so while last year a win like Monday night’s might have been cause for minor excitement — IU led by 20! IU scored 69 points! — this year, it feels harder to process. So, am I supposed to be excited that IU seems borderline competent again? Or should I be depressed by the fact that an 18-turnover game at home against USC-Upstate has me considering excitement? See what I mean?
It wasn’t pretty, but Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers won for the second time in four days, laboring past USC-Upstate 69-61 Monday night in Assembly Hall.
IU committed 18 turnovers and hit just 16 of 30 free throws, but Christian Watford’s 17 points and 10 rebounds pushed the Hoosiers (2-0) past the Spartans. It was the second straight double-double for the freshman from Birmingham, Alabama.
“The first thing I would say is welcome to the wacky world of freshmen and sophomore predominant basketball,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “That’s where we are at and we have a lot of learning to do.”
Three Hoosiers — Maurice Creek (14), Verdell Jones (13) and Derek Elston (10) — joined Watford in double figures. Jeremiah Rivers added two points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Indiana led 60-40 with 7:57 remaining, but USC Upstate (0-2) closed the game with a 21-9 run.
The Spartans, playing just their third season in Division I, were led by Mezie Uzochukwu’s 14 points.
Pick to click: Watford
Crean on Puerto Rico: “We are getting ready to play some high level guys when we get to Puerto Rico. It’s going to be a really good test for us to see where we stand. If we don’t match-up and play with that will and that fire and we are not as physical as them, we will get embarrassed.”
Pritchard struggles: Plagued by foul trouble, the 6-9 sophomore scored four points and didn’t record a rebound in just 10 minutes.
Dumes struggles, too: Indiana’s leading scorer last season logged 20 minutes, but hit just 1 of 6 shots and committed four turnovers. Dumes finished with two points and five rebounds.
Up next: Ole Miss in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
In front of a near capacity crowd Friday night at Assembly Hall, a trio of Indiana freshmen each turned in a debut to remember.
Leading just 20-18 with 7:03 remaining in the first half, Maurice Creek and Derek Elston sparked a 9-0 run that put Indiana in the drivers seat on their way to a 83-60 win over Howard.
Creek led all scorers with 17 points and Elston and Christian Watford added 14 each for the Hoosiers, who shot nearly 56 percent from the field and had 20 assists.
“We really, really shared the basketball,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “Anytime you have 20 assists, that’s a real benchmark that your offense is really moving and it’s crisp.”
Sixteen different players saw the floor for Indiana and no one amassed more than 26 minutes. With a brand of basketball that is expected to be far more up-tempo than a season ago, Crean is focusing on getting maximum effort from each Hoosier at all times.
“I want them to understand it’s the quality of the minutes, not the quantity,” Crean said.
Creek’s 17 came on 7 of 11 shooting from the field. Watford (4 of 6) and Elston (6 of 7) were equally efficient.
“I just thought they played together,” Howard coach Gil Jackson said. “They looked to get easy shots. You didn’t see anybody playing selfishly.”
Free throw differential: Indiana shot just 13 free throws in the game and Howard shot 18 of 30.
Double-double: Watford had 11 rebounds to go along with his 14 points.
Rivers debut: Jeremiah Rivers finished with six points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 26 minutes. “I think what’s going on right now is that it’s extremely hard for our team to keep up with him. I’d rather have them try to speed up than to slow him down,” Crean said of Rivers.
Bison struggle from outside: Howard connected on just four of 22 three-point attempts.
Pick to Click: Watford.
Up next: USC-Upstate, November 16, 8:30 ET, Assembly Hall
Indiana head coach Tom Crean, Tom Pritchard, Christian Watford and Maurice Creek met with the media following Indiana’s season-opening 83-60 win at Assembly Hall over Howard. Listen to their comments in the embedded media players below:
Postgame video, courtesy of IU Athletics on YouTube
Tom Crean met with the media Thursday and we’ve sifted through his comments and posted some highlights below. A full transcript is available here and you can listen to the audio from the H-T/Hoosier Scoop here.
On Jeremiah Rivers:
“As a coach you want the leadership vacuum to be filled right now. You want it to be set. But it is not like that. He hasn’t played in a year. I don’t know that he always understands when I say this, but he has won at every level. There is no question about that. He won in high school and he won in college. He has won three BIG EAST Championships and has been to a Final Four. However, outside of high school, which is a little different, I’m not sure he has absolutely been responsible for winning. He is going to have a huge responsibility in how we play to win. Not just coming in like at Georgetown. Now, he was on the court a lot at winning time at Georgetown because of his defensive abilities, but he also wasn’t the lead guard. He also wasn’t one of the 28 or 30 minutes a game guys. He very well could play into that for us.”
Hoosier Hysteria is on the horizon and it’s time for Inside the Hall’s player-by-player breakdown of the 2009-2010 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Maurice Creek.
To get a good idea of the impact Tom Crean expects Maurice Creek to have on the IU program, you only need to go back in the archives to August 31, 2009.
That’s the date when the NCAA clearinghouse passed along word that Creek, who used the summer to finish up core classes needed to qualify, would be eligible for the upcoming season.
Upon hearing of the green light from the NCAA for Creek to begin working out with the team, Crean tweeted that grown men were hugging each other all over Assembly Hall. (To be fair, I hugged Ryan and Eamonn upon hearing the news.) But yeah, Creek is a special enough talent to produce man hugs out of the IU coaching staff. Powerful stuff.
Creek brings a trait to Bloomington that last year’s team sorely lacked: a polished offensive game capable of consistently putting points on the board. A soft spoken kid from Oxon Hill (MD), the 6-5 Creek switched schools a couple of times before landing at Hargrave Military Academy for his senior season. He averaged 18.4 ppg for a team that finished 27-2.
Given the situation inherited, the argument can be made that the 2009 recruiting haul made by Tom Crean and his staff was as impressive as any class in the country.
Before ever coaching a game at Indiana, Crean held on to a verbal commitment by Derek Elston given to the previous coaching staff and received commitments from five other players. Three of those players, Maurice Creek, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, were ranked among the top 50 prospects nationally by Scout.com.
When it was all said and done, IU signed a consensus top ten class last November in the aftermath of major violations less than a year before.
So it should be no surprise that Crean would sing the praises of the young men that he believes will, collectively, be the cornerstone of the rebuilding process in Bloomington. And last night, Crean did just that in these comments released by IU Media Relations:
“That kid never accepted that he wasn’t a college player, or that he might be a Division II player, and that he might be a low-major player, and that he might be a mid-major player. I don’t think he ever accepted that. Something’s telling me that kid always had his sights set pretty high.”
“The other guy that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention nationally is Derek Elston. That guy is one of those people, if he hadn’t been injured out on that AAU circuit, there would have been a lot more things written about him. He’s good, he’s tough. And he wants to be really good.”