Indiana started off 2013 with an impressive performance as the Hoosiers crushed Penn State 74-51 on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s fifth straight win:
· What road problems? Yes, Indiana finished 3-6 last year on the road in the Big Ten. But dating back to last season, the Hoosiers are now 4-1 over their last five true road games and comfortably dispatched of Penn State on Monday. The Nittany Lions might finish in the Big Ten’s cellar, but the win moved IU to 2-0 in the league and most impressive of all, the start to this game left little doubt on the eventual outcome. After trailing 3-2 following a 3-pointer from Brandon Taylor, IU reeled off a 13-0 run and maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the way. Two straight road wins to open the conference season will certainly build confidence from within that this group can continue to win away from Assembly Hall.
· An assertive Watford is a major plus: After IU’s win at Iowa, I wrote that Christian Watford wasn’t the difference in the win, but he was a critical factor. In State College, Watford was even more assertive offensively early than he was in Iowa City. In the game’s opening four minutes, Watford finished two plays at the rim (one of which resulted in a 3-point play) and also buried a 3-pointer. Watford has been criticized frequently for failing to finish plays around the basket, but his field goal percentage at the rim has increased from 54 percent last season to 58 percent so far this year. After failing to record a rebound in IU’s win over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 22, Watford now has 22 rebounds over his last three games.
· Indiana fills it up from the perimeter: It wasn’t nearly the performance put forth last January at Penn State, but IU used the 3-point line efficiently on Monday and it was a collective effort. In total, five different players connected from distance, including Jordan Hulls, who bounced back from an 0-for-10 performance from the field at Iowa. Victor Oladipo connected on his only 3-point attempt and is now at 47.8 percent on the season. Remy Abell continues to take the perimeter shot when it’s available and is now 12-of-20 from outside after shooting just 6-of-15 last season. In total, Indiana now has five players with eleven or more 3-pointers made and Will Sheehey owns the lowest percentage at 39.4.
Indiana couldn’t buy a basket. The No. 1 Hoosiers didn’t look anything like the team that carefully demolished North Carolina on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t necessarily that the energy or effort was lacking, but the Hoosiers struggled to get anything going in what turned into a sloppy first half.
As soon as the second 20 minutes began, Victor Oladipo changed all that. The junior forward stole a Coppin State pass on the first play of the second half and finished a dunk that awoke the Assembly Hall crowd. Oladipo continued to create havoc on the defensive end for the rest of the night and was a major reason why Indiana (8-0) cruised to an 87-51 victory on Saturday night.
“We had to find a way to get the pace going our way,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “They came in with a mindset and a gameplan, and that gameplan was to be deliberate at times. We wanted to take care of the ball, but we wanted to get the pace our way. And they made that hard for awhile.”
In an effort to change the pace and make the game more uptempo, Crean decided to go with a full-court trapping press in the second half. He took his team into the hallway outside the locker room at halftime and had them walk through their individual roles.
“They were very alert and attentive, it was quick,” Crean said. “We just wanted to make sure we knew what our shifts were going to be, and they went in and played hard. It was more of a reminder, more of a focus-centered thing.”
Crean put Oladipo at the top of the press, and the athletic forward gave the Eagles fits in the backcourt. Crean said Oladipo had 20 deflections in the game, a record for a player during Crean’s tenure at Indiana. The only player with more single-game deflections during Crean’s coaching career was Dwyane Wade, who once recorded 23 in a game for Marquette.
Oladipo also had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 26 minutes.
“When you’re at the top of that zone, you’ve got to make them think you’re guarding him but you’re not guarding him,” Oladipo said. “I’ve been doing that for so long. We ran that press in high school as well. I’m glad he put me up there. It’s fun getting steals.
“We score in transition and we score in multiple ways but, essentially, we score off our defense. We got to continue playing defense at a high level so we can win big.”
Oladipo said there was no rhyme or reason for the Hoosiers’ slow start. It was just one of those nights where they couldn’t find an offensive rhythm for stretches at a time. Indiana missed its first nine shots from the field and trailed 9-2 at one point early in the first half.
“We were just missing shots, to be honest with you,” Oladipo said. “I don’t feel like we were unprepared to play the game or we came in second-guessing ourselves or playing down to the competition or thinking about the last game. We just didn’t make shots. We’re basketball players – everything we shoot is not going to go in the basket. But we did a pretty good job of bouncing back from that.”
Victor Oladipo (14 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals), Jeremy Hollowell (seven points) and Remy Abell (10 points, three assists) met with the media following Indiana’s 87-51 win over Coppin State on Saturday at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to the press conference in the embedded media player below:
The No. 1 Hoosiers seemed to lack energy early in Monday night’s game against North Dakota State. They were out of position at times on defense, and they too often settled for contested shots.
But in the second half, that energy level picked up. Indiana was flying around and making hustle plays, finally giving the large Assembly Hall crowd a reason to cheer. A primary reason for the change was sophomore guard Remy Abell.
Abell was impressive in the Hoosiers’ 87-61 victory, continuing to make a case that he deserves significant minutes on a deep Indiana team. He scored 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting — including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc — and pulled down five rebounds in only 17 minutes. Abell has yet to miss a shot from the field this season as was 2-of-2 and scored 12 points in Friday’s season opener.
“He’s been doing that all summer. It doesn’t surprise me,” fellow sophomore Cody Zeller said. “He’s made a lot of improvements. That’s big for us.”
At one point in the second half when he had just gone on his own 8-0 run, Abell made a fist-pump gesture as he looked into the crowd.
“This place is always crazy, full of energy,” Abell said, smiling. “I just wanted to help it out. I just wanted to make it more. Why not?”
Indiana coach Tom Crean said Abell has made considerable improvements in his game since the end of last season. The Louisville, Ky. native averaged three points per game during his freshman campaign.
“When he went home [last summer], he worked with his old high school coach, and when he came back in June, he was tremendous,” Crean said. “He did a pretty good job with the opportunities that he had last year, but he’s earned the right. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Tonight, [the scoring] was because his defense was going.”
Tom Crean, sophomore guard Remy Abell (14 points, five rebounds), freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell (14 points) and sophomore center Cody Zeller (22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) met with the media following IU’s 87-61 win over North Dakota State on Monday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to all three press conferences in the embedded media players below:
Five Indiana players — Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Remy Abell — met with the media following the Hoosiers’ 97-54 dismantling of Bryant on Friday night at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to the press conferences in the embedded media players below:
Depth has been cited as one of the many reasons Indiana is the preseason pick to win the national championship.
But Tom Crean has been careful in the preseason to not prematurely anoint his team as deep until he can substitute without experiencing much of a drop off in production and consistency.
A big piece to establishing that consistency from the bench is sophomore guard Remy Abell.
As a freshman, Abell played sparingly for much of the season. But he filled in and played key minutes down the stretch with Verdell Jones out in a win at Purdue. He also did so in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament and three NCAA Tournament games. Those experiences should pay off for Abell, who is expected to take on a bigger role in his second season in Bloomington.
“It was big getting more playing time, especially on a big stage like the NCAA Tournament,” Abell said earlier this fall. “That stage was huge and coming into an even bigger stage, it’s definitely going to help.”
Like he did a season ago, Crean is hopeful that he has a solid core of players that can be interchangeable as starters and, right now, Abell appears to be squarely in that mix.
“I want to be able to look at it and say ‘we’ve got seven starters.’ Remy’s one of those guys,” Crean said after Thursday’s exhibition win over Indiana Wesleyan. “If I had to look at it today, he’s one of those seven guys that I’d say, ‘he could start for this team.'”
This preseason has been a productive one for Abell as he’s been one of the most consistent perimeter players for the Hoosiers through the first two public scrimmages and the exhibition game. In the win over Indiana Wesleyan, he stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 13 minutes.
“He got better throughout the game. He was not as aggressive as he needed to be,” Crean said. “He’s playing in a box, which is one of my terms for when you’re very narrow and you’re not spreading out and bringing that spacing to the game and creating havoc for your man. He got better at that.”
Getting to the basket was one of Abell’s strengths throughout high school and as a freshman, but working on his perimeter game was an offseason necessity to grow more confident offensively. Thus far, he’s appeared more confident in taking the perimeter shot and knocking it down, even with a man in his face.