Steady play from Zeller nets tenth straight win for IU

  • 12/17/2011 9:07 pm in

Notre Dame went ahead of the Hoosiers 15-6 after Eric Atkins’ reverse layup with 14:33 to go in the first half.

In the past three years, that might have signaled the beginning of the end for Indiana. Without enough consistently reliable scorers, the Hoosiers rarely came back from such a deficit.

But those teams didn’t have Cody Zeller.

The 6-11 freshman sensation kept the Hoosiers (10-0) in the game long enough for his teammates to find their offensive rhythm, and then carried them their tenth consecutive win to start the season.

In one of the Hoosiers’ worst shooting games of the season, Zeller came up with one of his best – and most important – performances.

“It was very important to get Cody established from the beginning,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “It’s living proof that you can go to him, and you can go through him. He did numerous things with the ball.”

IU’s freshman big man finished with 21 points – two off his career-high – and eight rebounds. His teammates fed him in the post early and often once it became clear Notre Dame had nobody that could guard him.

Zeller got himself started with offensive rebounds and tips around the rim, and then used his quickness to score on Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley. When the Irish (7-5) brought a double team, Zeller found cutting teammates for easy baskets.

“We’ve got to play through Cody all the time,” Indiana guard Jordan Hulls said. “He can do so many different things. You throw it in, he can either score, he can pass – we’ve just got to cut off him. He’s unselfish so he’ll still find the open man. It’s very crucial that we do that every game.”

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said his team wanted to force Zeller to catch the ball further away from the basket, but the Irish struggled to do that in the second half.

“He’s really a talented kid,” Brey said. “He’s got great footwork, he can spin off you. Certainly we could not defend him.”

The last time Indiana played Notre Dame, Cody’s brother, Luke, was playing for the Irish. The eldest Zeller had 10 points and 11 rebounds as Notre Dame dominated the depleted Hoosiers 88-50 in the Maui Invitational.

Cody Zeller couldn’t make the trip to Maui that day because he had a high school game of his own, but he certainly hasn’t forgotten it.

“My whole family was out there, so I had Thanksgiving alone,” Zeller said with a smile. “We talked about it a little bit this week. It was a bad memory for the IU team. We wanted a little bit of payback.”

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  • MillaRed

    Goodness Jerry there isn’t anyone on the team that could have defended those threes. Blaming them on Hulls is not fair to him.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    And I counted at least 4, maybe 5, turnovers that Verdell should have been credited for. His mom must have been on the scorer’s bench. I hear people say that his defense is good, but I don’t see it. He gets burned often, just as Jordy does.

  • Anonymous

    I agree about the “maybe to far” as I saw on two occasions Cody was near the hash mark.  It was a peculiar play because I though both times “if Cody would just move out of the guy’s way he’d run right out of bounds.”  I also love that this is the closest thing to a complaint I can have about the kid.

  • Anonymous

    Look here bro. I am not a fan of VJ on the floor either but this guy HAS EARNED a right to play as a Senior, a senior that came to Indiana when we were the bubonic plague of college basketball and stuck around. Where is Malik Story, where is Nick Williams? The guys that chose to flee. Ease up on VJ. Its a thing called loyalty and I for one am damn sure glad we have a coach with a little character and loyalty. VJ deserves more respect when he plays even though, in my opinion he is not always the best option out there. Thank you VO and Pritch for sticking around.

  • CreanFaithful

    That doesn’t make much sense… These teams lost to IU.  You are assuming that we don’t improve and make adjustments game by game.  First time this team looses, you can call it a blue print.

  • MillaRed

    We have two pretty solid guards that’s for sure. Considering VO is playing more of a three spot.

    The Jones thing is quite simple, and I think we can all agree when thinking about it fairly. His mistakes are unique. If you sit and watch 10 non-IU basketball games, you will see a turnover that is so bad it just doesn’t make any sense perhaps once if not twice a game.

    Verdell does this every game.  Against ND, two balls thrown out of bounds to absolutely no one. A few others that were saved for one reason or another. He could have totaled 5 TOs with a little bad luck.

    He does many good things and is a big part of the team. But the nature of these TO’s are just hard to watch. No one else on either team forks them out so consistently. And in year 4 it can be frustrating to watch.

  • MillaRed

    I don’t see it as negativity, I see it as constructive criticism.

    To quote CTC after the KY game, “I did not use my bench well in that game. I need to do better.”

    And this is after knocking off the #1 team in the country.

    We all are very happy for our Hoosiers. Ecstatic! But the kids can do better. Coach said it himself.

  • IUwolf

    I completely agree.  VJ3 is the only guys that looks for zeller on a consistent basis.  His teammates should start doing the same.

    If Hulls couldn’t shoot the 3, he would be on the bench.  He has a tough time feeding the post and his defense is horrible.  Did you guys see Knight blow right by Jordy for a layup?  Zeller kept Knight in front of him throughout the game and he is our center!!  Jordy is our worst defensive player…..but man can he shoot. 

    Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and I feel VJ3 is busting his butt and deserves to be out there.

    If we are talking shot selection, I swear elston shoots it everytime he touches the ball.  Someone needs to tell him he is a role player and not a primary scorer.

  • INUnivHoosier

    I hear Tom Pritchard somewhere muttering, “Welcome to my world.”

  • INUnivHoosier

    I hear Tom Pritchard somewhere muttering, “Welcome to my world.”

  • INUnivHoosier

    I’ve been down on VJIII, but just because his feeds to Cody don’t lead to an assist for VJ doesn’t mean they don’t lead to a good pass from Cody to an open man after the defense doubles/triples down.

    I think it can be difficult to just compare stat sheets, particularly when you compare Hulls and VJ3.

  • INUnivHoosier

    I don’t know about you, but I love complaining about wins. It sure beats complaining about losses.

  • MillaRed

    Well said.

    The IU Nation in general has a high basketball I.Q. We can see what is going on out there. Looking at everything as a win or loss only is quite boring.

    The thing I really like about this group, is it isn’t necessary (nor is it possible) for everyone to be clicking on all cylinders. It’s called depth. Something we haven’t seen in a long time.

  • ouch…CWat and Will and VO can get their own shots as well as Cody (who is clearly the best).  More importantly and unlike last yr they have to be guarded and Cody and on occasion CWat have to be double teamed….that makes Jordy valuable…also, the team chemistry is good and VJ and Jordy seem to control the game better and have vastly improved.  We all have bad games and yes Jordy will get beat by the quicker and more athletic guards, but he has a big heart, and has a good handle and excellent shot which you need to spread the floor.  The big ten will test us – but I do think we have the talent to place in the top 5 and that was better than what most of us thought at the beginning of the season…

    We should check the polling numbers and see where we stand at the interim….

    then you add Mo with next yrs frosh and this will be an electric time….

    Credit the coaches and players for playing to their potential and doing it the right way…just look at Xavier and Cincy for a contrast…

  • Anonymous

    Was anyone else disappointed we didn’t crack the top 15 this week.  The only thing I can see is no one ahead of us had any significant loss.  I felt that some voters might have been holding back last week jumping us up from the “also receiving votes” to top 15 and they might correct that this week, but no.

  • IUJeff

    Not me. Against ND, we didn’t look like # 15 out of 345 Div 1 teams. At least we hopped over Illannoy though. 

    Our highest ranking of the year may come next Monday. It’s all up hill after that in looking at our B1G schedule.   

  • HoosNation

    I remember before the season started when we were asked to give our predictions on our record this year about 85-90% saying 18-13 or 17-14.  I was the only one who predicted 30-1!! Not looking too far off right now am I?!?!  hahahaha  ANYWAY…

    Cody is good. Its that simple.
    VJ is sketchy but capable. Goes thru amazingly untimely brain sharts.
    Hulls tries to bump his man on d rather than stay in front of him. Oh yea- Shooter McGee!
    Watford is still a black hole. Wish he’d give 100% 100% of the time.
    Vic is playing faster than body allows him to. Which is scary to think about…
    Will would be a much better player if he would get the start. what i mean is he’s trying to do too much with the minutes hes getting. plus that confidence boost.

    The rest of the team is basically fill in the teeny tiny gaps when those guys need a rest.

  • Monte

    There was no 3ptr when Alford was a freshman.  It didn’t go in until his senior season.  Probably have to go back to Calbert Cheaney 21 years ago, averaging about 17 a game as IU went undefeated in non-conference play.

  • Monte

    It’s no constructive criticism.  Neither the IU players nor the coaching staff are reading the comments section of this website to glean the accumulated wisdom.  On here, it’s just complaining.

  • MillaRed

    You are entitled to your opinion. Which is what it is, an opinion,