I started this game a bit late, so I had to play catchup on DVR. Because I always need to have my laptop open — always, always — I caught one of Alex’s Twitter updates that said IU had cut the lead to 11 with just under 12 minutes to go. At the time, I had just started the second half, and as the half wore on I became increasingly shocked by this fact: after all, IU showed no signs of really putting a dent into Loyola’s lead. They still trailed by 20 with 14:10 to go, and though they were taking care of the ball better — there was only one turnover in the first seven minutes of the second half — Loyola was hitting their shots, and IU wasn’t able to inch any closer.
But then the barrage hit. Maurice Creek knocked down two threes, Verdell Jones hit another, Creek hit a layup, got fouled and hit the free throw, Jones hit two free throws off a Creek steal, and suddenly the Hoosiers were only down six with 10:18 to go.
Another big part of IU’s comeback? Tom Pritchard. In the second half, he really reminded me of the Pritch of old: he was gobbling up rebounds, had a real knack for the ball and was a productive scorer. He had six offensive boards and eight total, and chipped in seven points. It wasn’t an amazing effort by any stretch, but he kept a lot of plays alive during the Hoosiers’ comeback run, and it was an integral part of why they were able to make this a game. IU, with their thin frontline, could use this kind of effort out of Pritch every night.
Yes, of course, there was plenty to gripe about in this game. (Just what until you get to The Bad.) But IU could have laid down and died in this one. Instead, they turned up the defensive pressure in both the full and half court, were aggressive and got to the line, and hit some big shots to bring them right back into this game.
This is what good teams do when they find themselves at a crossroads: They will themselves back into the game with good play on both sides of the ball. But good teams also find a way to win these games against an inferior opponent at home. And well, we all know that didn’t happen tonight.
One of the questions that is most frequently posed in the comments early on this season is, “When is the handsome man in the tie going to play more?”
Well, today is your lucky day, friends. In today’s press conference (video of the presser here and here), Herald-Times reporter Dustin Dopirak asked the following question of Tom Crean:
“When will you know it’s time for him (Bawa Muniru) to get at least a few minutes here and there?
And here is the answer:
“Well, he did the other day. I don’t look at it like that. I think anytime you go into the game with a predetermined mindset of your bench, it’s usually not a 50-50 proposition. You’ve got to let the game play itself out. There’s different situations that call for different people inside of the game. But as he continues to progress and build his own confidence, then I think his teammates will continue to have more confidence in him. But he’s just not at a point yet where he’s laid it out on the line from what we need from him defensively. And it’ll come. You know, Tijan, he wasn’t anywhere close to it a year ago either. And I don’t use that as an example just because they’re both from a different country, but because of the learning process. The learning curve has always got to get adjusted for guys. And right now we’re not trying to inundate Bawa with too many things other than for him to really come out and be a presence for us defensively and get people open. But it’s not like we’re out there trying to teach him eight different moves right now or you do this as a counter to that. We’re not trying to do that. We’ll do that in our individual workouts. But we really want him to just get that confidence to where he can go in and apply some real effects defensively and on the backboards.”
To this point, I think Crean’s approach with Bawa has been spot-on. He’s clearly not aggressive nor polished enough to play at a high level just yet and not many situations thus far have warranted putting him in the game. I would expect that he could get a little clock here and there the rest of the season, but clearly, Bawa has a long road ahead to become a significant contributor.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, Maurice Creek and Derek Elston met with the media following Indiana’s 90-73 loss Saturday against Kentucky in Assembly Hall. Listen to their comments, as well as those of UK coach John Calipari, in the embedded media players below:
Indiana entered Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night a decided underdog against Pittsburgh.
They left with a surprising and convincing 74-64 victory, the most impressive win to date of the Tom Crean era. It was the 200th career victory for the second year coach.
The Hoosiers (4-4) controlled the paint and the pace and led by as many as 18 before fighting off a late Pitt rally in the Jimmy V Classic.
“From the nine minute mark on, they never, ever wavered when it came to how they were talking to each other in the sense of finishing,” Crean said. “It was all about defense. I could have not talked offense those last nine minutes and I think they still would have been fine because they were so locked in to defending.”
Indiana held Pitt to just 31 percent shooting and outscored the Panthers 40-20 in the paint.
Verdell Jones scored 20 points to lead IU and Christian Watford added 18 points, including 10 of 13 from the foul line. Indiana hit 25 of 34 free throws.
The Hoosiers began to pull away near the midway point of the second half. After Pitt cut the lead to 41-37 on a Brad Wanamaker layup, Indiana answered with seven straight points over a four-minute stretch.
The run was capped by a Devan Dumes three-pointer, which gave IU its first double-digit lead with 11:06 remaining. It was Indiana’s only three-pointer in the game.
“We get some incredible teachable moments out of a win,” Crean said. “They needed something to go right, that they can hang their hat on. We needed this.”
Pittsburgh, which out-rebounded Indiana 45-39, was led by a career-high 25 points from Ashton Gibbs. Wanamaker added 18 points.
Pick to Click winner: Jones
Bob Knight in attendance: The Hall of Fame coach worked the pre-game and post-game for ESPN and watched the Hoosiers in-person for the first time since 2000.
Watford on the crowd in the Garden: “I didn’t see many Pitt fans. When I looked around, I saw our fans, Hoosier nation.”
Jones on holding onto the lead: “Leadership really came into it. Devan (Dumes) did a great job, behind the scenes, of calming us down. It was a big game, nationally televised game, we knew that and we really wanted to win. Our hunger really showed.”
Indiana at Madison Square Garden: Indiana moved to 12-8 all-time at MSG. It was IU’s first win in the venue since 1996, when the Hoosiers beat Duke 85-69 in the Preseason NIT.
Jamie Dixon on IU’s performance: “I think they did a good job of taking us off the dribble. They got some scores inside from the big guys. They got to the free-throw line. They get to the free-throw line a lot but they also foul a lot and put guys on the free-throw line. Our goal was to get to the free-throw line. They outscored us by 13 from the free-throw line and they outscored us by 10. When you look at the stats of their opponents, their opponents are out-shooting them at the free-throw line and we didn’t do that tonight. The zone and how they defended early put us in that situation.”
For 31 minutes, Indiana and Maryland were engaged in a back-and-forth battle in Assembly Hall.
But after a Christian Watford free throw tied the game at 54 with 8:49 remaining, the more experienced Terrapins went on a 16-4 run on their way to a comfortable 80-68 win in the Big-Ten ACC Challenge.
The loss was the fourth in five games for Indiana.
Greivis Vasquez scored 23 points to lead Maryland (5-2), which shot 47 percent from the field. Vasquez hit 13 of 14 free throws. Three other Terrapins scored in double figures, led by 19 from Landon Millbourne.
“It was a winnable game and we did not pressure the ball well enough,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “We did not play physical enough, we did not play tough enough on the defensive end.”
The Hoosiers, on the other hand, shot just 33 percent and despite pulling down 20 offensive rebounds, scored just 16 second chance points. Maurice Creek scored 19 points to lead IU and Christian Watford added 16.
Indiana led by seven with 5:29 remaining in the first half on a pair of free throws by Creek, but Maryland closed the half on a 14-5 run to grab a 35-33 halftime lead.
The Terps took the lead for good at the 8:36 mark on a free throw by Adrian Bowie and IU’s final lead was 53-52 with 9:44 on a jump shot by Verdell Jones.
Besides Creek and Watford, Indiana struggled to find offense. Jones shot just 3-of-15 and Derek Elston and Devan Dumes each shot 2-of-10 from the floor. The Hoosiers hit just 7-of-26 three-point attempts.
Crean unhappy with student chants towards Vasquez: “We can be obnoxious, we can be nasty, we can cheer against the other team, but we never use vulgarity. We never use vulgarities against an opponent. That’s not what happened at Indiana in the past and it’s certainly not going to happen under my watch. But I love our fans. I love the energy they brought us tonight. We did not match the energy of our fans. But at no point in time are vulgarities in that crowd going to be accepted. And that cannot happy at Indiana. We have too much pride. We have too many great students, great memories, too many tradition based things here for anything to ever turn it the other way. And nobody deserves that. We’ve got to find a way to be obnoxious without being vulgar because we’re too good for that.”
Maryland turns it over: The Terrapins committed a season-high 18 turnovers. They came into the game averaging just 10.7 per game.
Jeremiah Rivers injury: After a reverse layup with 18:56 remaining in the first half, Rivers left the game with back spasms. He returned later in the first half and finished with five points, six rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 19 minutes.
Up next: Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Madison Square Garden at 9:00 EST. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Crean discusses fan behavior, courtesy of Ronan O’Shea on YouTube:
Player postgame interviews, courtesy of IU Athletics on YouTube: