Good, Bad, Ugly: NCCU
THE GOOD: BOUNCING BACK.
Tale of two halves this evening in Bloomington. After a lack of defensive presence coupled with some lackadaisical play in the first half, IU came storming out of the gate in the second half, and never looked back. Blame the first half on finals, or a week off, or whatever you want, but Tom Crean must have lit a fire under his team in the locker room, because they took it to another level after the intermission. NC Central shot 40 percent in the first half, and only 28.1 percent in the second half.
IU was able to get points in transition, nail some threes (though, they were only 6-of-18 in the second half), push the pace and dictate the game — something they should do against an opponent like this. IU’s point guards combined for 16 assists — Jeremiah Rivers had eight (seven in the first half) and Jordan Hulls had eight — and what else can you say about Maurice Creek? He went off for 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting (5-of-10 from three) and even chipped in seven rebounds. The kid just has a knack for putting the basketball into the hoop. I think early on this season, Hoosier fans thought Christian Watford was going to be IU’s go-to scorer and super freshman, but at this point, it’s all Creek all the time.
Tom Pritchard also deserves some recognition here. After many of you thought Elston should get the start in front of him — and rightfully so — Crean did just that, as the freshman started this evening. Pritchard has struggled with foul trouble in several games this year, and has looked sluggish. But he was able to play 21 minutes tonight, hit 4-of-5 from the floor for eight points, and snatch six rebounds. An amazing line? No. But the non-start seems to have lit a bit of a fire under him, and he was in the conversation tonight — something that’s important to this squad heading into Big Ten season.
THE BAD AND UGLY: CONSISTENCY.
Even though IU shot 56 percent in the first half, their defense — a mix of man and zone — just wasn’t there, and they let a team they eventually beat by 23 hang around. Against a better team, the Hoosiers might have found themselves in a hole at half instead of up three. Sixteen turnovers is a little concerning, though it could have been worse. IU shot 14-of-21 from the line for 66.7 percent, which isn’t going to cut it.
But bottom line: IU brought it in the second half, won big, got the scrubs in — Kory Barnett, anyone? — are .500 on the year at 5-5 and a win away from matching last year’s win total.