Indiana: Where normal matters so much
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.
Indiana is a normal team now. Just a normal team. No absurdly large freshman contingent, far fewer eye-rolling, head-scratching plays, a much more defined sense of how a Big Ten team should behave in games like this one.
This team isn’t great by any stretch. There are still obvious flaws, the propensity for turnovers chiefly among them. The 15 put up Sunday were the fewest of the season thus far, and that’s still a number that’s too high (although it ought be noted that the progression, through four games, of overall giveaways has been 24-21-17-15).
The defense continued to carry Indiana, as the Hoosiers constructed a 22-0 run and a 27-2 overall stretch primarily out of strong defense. Colt Ryan, Evansville’s dangerous guard, only really got hot in the game’s last five minutes. It wasn’t exciting, but it was important, and it was a winning effort.
Tom Crean spent two years trying to engender normalcy and consistency from a well of chaos. He’s finally done that. Assembly Hall was dripping with big-name recruits, suddenly a staple of weekend events at the iconic arena. There is an obvious identity about the squad that already plays there. And his team is winning games.
This team isn’t great. It isn’t terrible. It isn’t terribly exciting. It’s just … normal. And after 2 1/2 years of unimaginable turmoil, that’s an important milestone to reach.
The next one takes place in March.