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.
Editor’s Note: Matt Dollinger is a senior at Indiana University and is the former men’s basketball beat writer for the Indiana Daily Student. Please welcome him as our newest contributor on Inside the Hall. Email him at email@example.com.
Like so many of you, walking into Assembly Hall brings back old memories for me.
I hear the familiar blast of the pep band and start humming the fight song. I smell the popcorn and begin to reminisce about games past. And then, I look down at my student ticket and remember, with much sadness, that I will have to climb roughly 27 flights of stairs to ascend the mountain that is section FF, row 7.
Nevertheless, sans Sherpa, I climbed, and witnessed IU’s 83-60 season-opening victory over Howard.
This season, I’m going to provide a little weekly analysis of the Hoosiers’ play (think Bill Walton, with more exclamation marks and less Grateful Dead references). Hopefully, my Hoosier hindsight can stir up some healthy discussion.
So to start, here are five things I took away from Friday’s game:
1. I Like The New Guys
And so does Tom Crean. IU’s seven new players combined to score 55 of the Hoosiers’ 83 points and showed a lot of promise. Curiosity does have me wonder though how Christian Watford, Maurice Creek and Jordan Hulls negotiated jersey number switches with their older teammates. Did Crean make the players shoot for it? And if so, how did Matt Roth lose?
2. Watford Is The Truth
What a treat Watford is going to be for Hoosier fans. A post presence with size, skill and athleticism does not come around every day. The 6-foot-9 frosh displayed a nice touch in the paint and showed he and Tom Pritchard could form into a nice 1-2 punch down low. With 14 points and 11 rebounds in his debut, Watford proved he is going to be more D.J. White than D.J. Mbenga.
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