Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to make some sense of the 2010-11 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on. Today: Tom Pritchard.
Final Stats (31 games): 2.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 59.0% FG, 34.8% FT in 18.2 minutes per game
So is it me, or was Tom Pritchard one of the most quietly impressive Hoosiers on the court this season?
Granted, his offensive game was just as stop-and-go (putting it lightly) as ever. But Pritchard was quite possibly Indiana’s most improved and most consistent defender, and a significant minority of fouls he committed this season were in covering for a teammate that had lost his mark.
We also started seeing some of the Pritchard that Tom Crean and other Hoosiers have talked about – the one with strong footwork, underrated athleticism and some actual swagger around the rim.
Looking back, it’s probably fair to say that, in a sense, Pritchard came out of his shell a little bit, and began to define the final product he’ll become. Though it’s hard to picture him becoming a scoring force in his senior season, it’s certainly not beyond even the adventurous imagination to see him put up nicely improved numbers next year. And as his strength has improved, so has his rebounding, a significant need for Indiana next season as well.
All of this swells up to create the potential for Pritchard to play a critical role on the 2011-12 Indiana basketball team: foil to Cody Zeller.
Watch that again. Watch it again. You know you want to.
OK, now pay attention.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????
Well, actually, I’ll tell you what’s going on. Indiana, and in this particular instance, Tom Pritchard, is figuring it out.
‘It,’ that elusive one-word coach’s answer when explaining the inexplicable, when praising or complaining about everything and nothing at the same time.
There have been moments for Indiana, just as there have been moments for Tom Pritchard, when the hustle and the head finally met, when all the necessary factors — positioning, awareness, whatever — came together to make one impressive moment of basketball.
More often than not, only some of the aforementioned necessities showed, creating an awkward scene, like someone getting stood up before prom.
Over the last three games, however, these moments have suddenly been in steady supply.
Walk yourself through that video, frame by frame. It’s not just Pritchard’s put-back dunk. It’s Verdell Jones’ shot, which wasn’t a terrible one. It’s Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco crashing the boards, Capobianco in particular firmly bodying up Ralph Sampson III. It’s Victor Oladipo and Daniel Moore turning to move back and stop anything in transition. It’s a well-executed basketball play.
As it turns out, there’s life after Christian Watford after all.
This win came in the form of Tom Pritchard, who became Blake Griffin tonight.
It came in the form of a defense that racked up seven steals, some of which aided in Indiana’s 18 points off turnovers. The first half box-and-one limited Blake Hoffarber’s attempts — though the Gophers figured out how get him more looks in the second half — and often made Minnesota nothing more than a jumpshooting team, one that finished the game at 39.6 percent from the floor (21-of-53).
It came in the form of 12 offensive rebounds, which helped the Hoosier amass 18 second-chance points.
Despite a double-digit lead for a good chunk of the second half, it felt as if Minnesota was bound to strike at some point. And they did. This one had the feeling of Sunday’s Breslin Center bout all over again.
But there was no close but no cigar this time.
Thanks to some clutch free throws from Verdell Jones and a big three from him as well, the Hoosiers gave themselves just enough distance, and Hoffarber’s three — a kid that’s killed this team before with last-second heroics — did not go down at the buzzer.
This night inside Assembly Hall, there was no overtime. No loss.
Just another win over a ranked opponent at home. Another game where energy, effort, hustle and desire were at a maximum, just when it felt like this season’s best days were behind the Hoosiers.
Twelve wins and counting. A .500ish mark still in sight.
After everything that’s gone down so far this season, it’s not a bad place to be.
Listen to the postgame comments of Tom Crean and Tom Pritchard (12 points, seven rebounds) following Indiana’s 60-57 win over Minnesota at Assembly Hall on Wednesday in the embedded media players below:
BLOOMINGTON — There’s this team I cover, and they do the damndest stuff.
See, they lose to a team that is, statistically, one of the worst they’ll play this season. Lose, hell, they get walked on, tooled against the worst team in their conference.
And then they come home, lick their wounds, and beat one of the three most-disliked opponents on their schedule. And they pick up their first win over a ranked team in about 35 months.
They take this crew that’s probably going to the NCAA Tournament and they work them over. Jeremiah Rivers, the team’s lone senior, goes absolutely lockdown on one of the Big Ten’s best point guards, forcing a young man that had made beating Indiana his own personal sport in the past to look remarkably mediocre.
Demetri McCamey was an Indiana killer, the kind who played like a guy with a giant chip on his shoulder against the team that he once might have joined. He scored 31 points against them in a loss his freshman year, and 19 in each contest – including a game-winner in Champaign – last season.
Thursday night, Jeremiah Rivers shut him down. I believe the phrase is “beat him like he stole something,” proverbially speaking, of course. McCamey finished with six points and five turnovers, and was absolutely absent when his team needed him most.
“He’s their catalyst, so he makes them go,” said Christian Watford, who finished with 16 points. “And when he’s not going, they all look a little stagnant.”
There’s evidence to support that theory. For the game, Indiana allowed just one Illinois player – forward Mike Davis – to score in double figures, after letting four Iowa Hawkeyes into double digits five days prior.
Tom Pritchard (Tom Pritchard!) hit a game-winning shot. Let that sink in, and I believe you’ll begin coming around to my point.
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.