Notebook: Zeller struggles, Watford reaches 1,000

  • 12/29/2011 11:13 am in

Cody Zeller was bound to have one of these nights eventually.

The four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week entered Wednesday night averaging 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds — both leading the Hoosiers — but the Spartans held Zeller in check all night. He finished with four points and three rebounds in 23 minutes — all season-lows.

Welcome to Big Ten basketball.

Part of the issue was the four fouls he picked up, but most of the issue was the Spartan interior.

“They were very physical,” head coach Tom Crean said of MSU. “He’s not used to dealing with people that have that kind of size. The physical strength and weight they have at Michigan State, they’re a very physical team. … He’ll learn from it.”

Zeller will have to learn that everyone in the Big Ten is physical. Junior guard Jordan Hulls was confident Zeller would be able to move forward from the loss.

“The Big Ten is very physical,” Hulls said. “Things are going to happen. They know our gameplan really well, we know their gameplan really well. It’s just a learning experience. He’s going to learn. He’s fine.”

RUNNING AND GUNNING

They say basketball is a game of runs. Wednesday night’s game saw two of the bigger runs you’ll ever see in a Big Ten game.

From 4:48 left in the first half to 14:49 left in the second, the Hoosiers went on a 25-2 run, turning a 34-16 deficit into a 41-36 lead.

But after Indiana took a 54-45 lead, the Spartans went on a 20-0 run in just over six minutes, grabbing a double-digit lead. They finished the game on a 35-11 run.

“It’s just Big Ten basketball,” junior forward Christian Watford said. “ I knew coming in, being a veteran guy, I kind of expected those things. It’s a learning process. We’re going to move forward from it. … We just didn’t get enough defensive stops and it led to some easy buckets for them, and once they got rolling, it was kind of hard to stop them.”

NOT FINDING THE LINE 

MSU coach Tom Izzo said the Spartans’ No. 1 goal on the night was to defend without fouling, and they did just that, giving Indiana just nine free-throw attempts, five of which were made.

The Hoosiers entered the night as one of the best teams in the country at getting to the free-throw line, but the Spartan defense, and the officials, made it difficult.

“Not getting to the free-throw line is a problem for us,” Crean said. “Not getting enough drives to the hoop.”

1,000 FOR WATFORD

Along with leading the Hoosiers with season-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds (tie), Watford eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Watford currently leads Big Ten juniors in career scoring.

“It means a lot to me, it means a lot to our program,” Watford said. “But I can’t really enjoy that at a moment like this.”

Chris Vannini is a freelance sports journalist in Michigan who has covered Michigan State athletics and the Detroit Tigers over the past four years. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVannini and contact him at [email protected].

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  • Anonymous

    the biggest thing i noticed about cody last night is he did not WANT the ball. Several times our guards were looking for him, but he couldn’t get good enough position. He is going to have to change that in order for us to continue our good start

  • CreamandCrimson

    Top two adjustments for us to make before Ohio State: 
    -Bring Zeller out 8-10 feet from the basket and let him face up.  That gets him the ball and allows him to use him to use his big advantage over other low post players…his quick feet and movement.  
    -Everyone needs to attack the basket more.  We are a really good free throw shooting team and we need to get to the line often to contend with OSU. 

    Congratulations to Watford on getting to 1000 points…keep up the great work.

    One word of caution (not that my words of caution mean anything to anyone, ask my wife)…it is very possible and probably likely we are going to be 0-2 in the Big Ten.  If that happens, don’t flip out.  We have Michigan, Penn State and Minnesota and will have every opportunity to rebound to 3-2.  Losing at Michigan State and to Ohio State won’t mean we don’t have a good team and it won’t mean we don’t have a competent coach.  There’s a lot of season left.  One game does not make a season (that includes a win over Kentucky or a loss to Ohio State).  There are 17 Big Ten games left and plenty of opportunities to make or tear down an NCAA tournament resume.  That remains the primary goal for the team and it’s the context I will view each game in.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Top two adjustments for us to make before Ohio State: 
    -Bring Zeller out 8-10 feet from the basket and let him face up.  That gets him the ball and allows him to use him to use his big advantage over other low post players…his quick feet and movement.  
    -Everyone needs to attack the basket more.  We are a really good free throw shooting team and we need to get to the line often to contend with OSU. 

    Congratulations to Watford on getting to 1000 points…keep up the great work.

    One word of caution (not that my words of caution mean anything to anyone, ask my wife)…it is very possible and probably likely we are going to be 0-2 in the Big Ten.  If that happens, don’t flip out.  We have Michigan, Penn State and Minnesota and will have every opportunity to rebound to 3-2.  Losing at Michigan State and to Ohio State won’t mean we don’t have a good team and it won’t mean we don’t have a competent coach.  There’s a lot of season left.  One game does not make a season (that includes a win over Kentucky or a loss to Ohio State).  There are 17 Big Ten games left and plenty of opportunities to make or tear down an NCAA tournament resume.  That remains the primary goal for the team and it’s the context I will view each game in.

  • I am a big IU fan, and therefore, I love Zeller… But I thought it was a bit premature to be ranking him as the 12th best pro prospect before his first Big Ten game.  Unfortunately, my premonitions were correct that the EXTREMELY talented, but rather frail youngster would struggle against the physical BIGS in the the Big Ten.  The good news is, the kid is only a freshman.  If before the season, someone would have told me we’d be 12-1 at this point, I would have been thrilled.  We played a tough team, in a hostile environment and played them close for the majority of the game.  We did it without one of our top 5 players (Sheehey) and without solid contributions from Our leading scorer and our sharp shooter.  We swept the non-conference schedule, and according to my predictions, we should end up with between 5-8 losses in the regular season.  That leaves us with a record from 26-5 to 23-8.  Either of those is a great season in my book, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season… Oh, and congrats to Watford on scoring 1000!

  • CB

    TED VALENTINE

  • Anonymous

    NBA draft position is all about potential.  That draft ranking doesn’t mean that anybody thinks Zeller is the 12th best college player or anything close.  

    The NBA draft is a purely speculative exercise.  

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty disappointed in Cody’s performance last night.  He was bound to have a down game, but once the issues started he seemed to lose his confidence.  He definitely wasn’t aggressive enough to make a positive impact.  Keep your head up Cody, learn from it and take to OSU.

    Congratulations to Watford on reaching 1,000 points.  He had an outstanding game last night.  I just wish his milestone could have come under different circumstances.  

  • Peter

    Anyone going to talk about how poor Jordy played last night? Yeah, I understand that shooters get cold. It happens. He needs to be able to control games against teams like this. Poor passing, poor defense, not getting the ball to Zeller. This may of been the worst game I’ve ever seen Jordy play… He needs to get to the line.

    Does the endless perimeter passing infuriate anybody else?

  • Matt

    Please please please don’t flip out if we go 0-2 in the big ten. It’s just negativity. Call it “constructive criticism” but it’s not because no one within the program cares what we say on here. Vent all you want but what is it really going to change….

  • eph521

    It’s encouraging and refreshing to read the comments by Crean and the players regarding the loss to MSU. They readily admit that mistakes were made and that they need to get better in several areas. They make no excuses.

    But they balance those acknowledgements by also saying it’s a learning process and they are determined to improve… they are mature enough to realize there will be games like this and that’s it’s all part of getting back to the elite level of basketball we all want to see. They remain confident, focused and united as a team. They still believe in each other and their Coach. 

    I think some fans should take a cue from the balanced responses offered by the team we love so much.

  • nativehoosier

    It’s nice to look forward to the second half again. The Hoosiers will  be fine.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Several people addressed it in “The Minute After”.  Shot poorly, wasn’t effective as a distributor, got roasted on defense (we knew perimeter wouldn’t be a strength on this squad, one thing 2012 recruiting has the physical tools to fix)…it was a really rough night for both Zeller and Hulls.  Doesn’t get any easier for Hulls on Saturday when he gets to be smothered by Kraft.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Several people addressed it in “The Minute After”.  Shot poorly, wasn’t effective as a distributor, got roasted on defense (we knew perimeter wouldn’t be a strength on this squad, one thing 2012 recruiting has the physical tools to fix)…it was a really rough night for both Zeller and Hulls.  Doesn’t get any easier for Hulls on Saturday when he gets to be smothered by Kraft.

  • Anonymous

    Part of Cody not getting the ball was MSU’s defense and part of it was our perimeter players having difficulty getting passing angles.  But a large share is also on Cody to create space to throw the ball into and there are a couple of ways to do that. 

    It can take time for big guys to figure that out but it’s something he needs to work on.  Sometimes bigs become too reliant on perimeter players to create a passing lane and don’t do enough to establish it themselves (speaking from experience as a post player who had to learn that).  I doubt Cody has really had to work to get position in the past, maybe at the AAU level but certainly not in HS. 

    I agree that there are time where Cody doesn’t seem to be looking to get the ball.  In the post a guy should *always* be looking for ways to get position.  You’re always only two pass away from an easy two if you can seal a defender off with your body. 

    I think Zeller is fantastic and rarely makes mistakes.  He’s a stud.  I can’t wait until he gets better at positioning himself to receive the ball and score. 

  • Anonymous

    Yep.  Don’t get too high after a win, don’t get too low after a loss.  

  • Southport65

    Southport65Ok take out Will’s 11.5 points a game,then have Hulls have his worst shooting night of his career. These were open 3’s he hits 60% of the time not forced shots. The kid is going to have an off game but he did have 5 assists. You can blame the guards but as a former coach Zeller is just learning how to play with his back to the basket and he is not a huge target for the guards to hit. He needs to step out and hit some face to the bucket shots and the entry passes will become easier. MSU were double teaming his right side to force him into the middle making the pass easier to be picked off plus he was getting mugged,pushed and shoved out of position. This will get better when he adds some weight. He has had his way for years against smaller defenders and he is a freshman who needs to learn. Even with all that we still show heart and we came back from 2 big margins. The last few years this game would be over midway thru the 1st half. We played a ranked team at home with one of our top scorers hurt in an arena where no one wins! We just got our 1st loss.. get over it,learn and move on. This team was not picked to win this game this year. It will be different when they come to IU. We hold most of our home games win the easy road games and we are in the dance. It is terrible of all who are saying coach must go or Hulls should be benched after one loss. We did not lose to Penn State or Iowa so get over our 1st loss to a good team and get ready for Ohio State and even if we lose that one the season and 20 wins are still within our reach along with an NCAA bid which most of you so called arm chair coaches did not think was possible until next year. What a knee jerk reaction from fans who know better!!I am so sad about how some of you have reacted. Step back and let the team lean from their mistakes. For the record IZZO out coaches nearly everyone he plays in East Lansing!!

  • Anonymous

    I thought Hulls stunk it up last night.  Cody is a Freshman and will have some of those nights, especially against big men like MSU has, but Hulls (2 out of 10 / 4 pts – 3 TO’s –  0 for 4 from 3 pt) was the worst on the floor.  Hulls needs to step it up for the Big Ten.  Howard and Stony Brook are over.

  • Game Thoughts.

    We all remember Dec 10 like it was yesterday.  Remember Dec 28 as well.  The drawing board has been erased and the second phase of the season is under way.  Conference play where your opponents can identify your shadow if you catch my drift is rolling.  Izzo got the better of Crean on this one.  Easy given he is the mentor right.  We stood around like our shoes were filled with cement.   Film session will be ugly.   The Penn State game will be the next game that we really learn about IU.  These first 3 are emotional or too much hype surrounding the outcome.  The next road game would be vital.  Lets go IU 

    I really wish he would have let Remy grow up big tonight and yank Jordan Hulls.

  • iujunebug

    Agreed.  Of course I am bummed that we lost, but so long as they learn something from the experience, and I think they will, then there is no need to freak out about losing to MSU at their home.

  • Anonymous

    You arent going to win many games when pritchard has to play 17 minutes. He got schooled by nix and elston is just awful. Unless one of those guys steps up their game 100 percent we are basically a six player team who cannot afford injuries.

  • Anonymous

    You arent going to win many games when pritchard has to play 17 minutes. He got schooled by nix and elston is just awful. Unless one of those guys steps up their game 100 percent we are basically a six player team who cannot afford injuries.

  • Anonymous

    i will say this, any type of great success has to to come through some type of failure. this game will be a learning experience for IU. But damn, i thought we had it for a minute 

  • Anonymous

    We sure weren’t going to win every game this year. Very excited about where we are at this time. We are still learning as a team, love the effort. Think we play better in the open style offense rather than half court. Not ready to say anybody stunk everyone is going to have off nights everyone. Really like watching CWat playing both ends of the court i think he really gets the importance of it. It is really wonderful watching him mature as a player and a leader. Go Hoosiers!! Next lesson coming up. Play hard

  • Anonymous

    yea to me the best thing about c-wat is his confidence. he’s not afraid to take a big shot when they really need it. Even last night when the game just started and 99% of our team looked uncomfortable, sure enough watford jacked up a 3 and hit it while be guarded pretty heavily. dude is a future pro

  • Hoosiers028

    Anybody know anything about Sheehey? Is he available Saturday?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah he sure has a great stroke from 3 pt range.  Yeah thats probably it his confidence, and with Cody in town he has a much more defined role. Also would have liked to have WS off the bench last night he would have been a big help nothing seems to phase him.

  • CreanFaithful

    Well said.  You would think that there are at least a handful of posters on here that should be coaching div 1 basketball based on their commentary…  As you might guess by my handle, I’ll stick with CTC.  I’ll never say he’s perfect but the guy can flat out coach.  

  • Anonymous

    My takes on the game:

    1. one good thing i got out of Cody’s struggles is that it is very clear he is not ready for NBA therefore I can’t even imagine him leaving before he gets a degree. 

    2. Nobody needs to ride Zeller to harshly, he is a freshman and this type of game was bound to happen sooner or later.  He will probably have 2 or 3 more games like this because of his inexperience

    3. I believe we have seen Watford turn the corner.  He came out and played an incredible game and battled with Green.  His comments about him reaching 1000 points i think were very telling about him changing and us as a team.  Watford expects this out of himself now, and this team expects to win because they have the tgalent to beat ANYBODY in the nation

  • Anonymous

    Completely agree with you about not freaking out over possible 0-2 start.  Especially with it being at MSU.  Let’s be honest we had teams that were a lot better than this team that could not beat MSU at the Breslin center (have not won there since 1991. Think about those early 90’s teams from cheaney then to Bailey).  It is almost impossible to pull out a win there.  And OSU is a great team and without Sheehey we have almost no shot at a win against them.  We are a good team even without Sheehey but we need his defense and spark off the bench against a team like OSU

  • Peter

    Yes, we need to get to the basket Moore. (Pun intended). We should have thrown him in there earlier in the game. Change up the pace. Aside from Victor, Daniel can penetrate better than anyone on our team.It may have opened things up for Zeller a bit Moore…

  • Peter

    Yes, we need to get to the basket Moore. (Pun intended). We should have thrown him in there earlier in the game. Change up the pace. Aside from Victor, Daniel can penetrate better than anyone on our team.It may have opened things up for Zeller a bit Moore…

  • Anonymous

    heard he could be out for the most part of january

  • jgon86

    I don’t think this had anything to do about Zeller, but it had everything to do with Jordan Hulls. Because he slow more defenders can find easier to shift to Zeller.  Denying the extra space to move around with the ball.  He’s a great shooter and its only one game, but Hulls has to find some way to defend better.  Every team is going to be attacking to get easy buckets.  

  • Brklynhoosier

    Y’know, we’ve all been there w/ Watford — he always seems to be playing at about 60%.  But he’s come up so big for us this year when it’s mattered — at NC State, against Kentucky, and especially last night.  Hats off to him for all the work he’s done to improve his game, and here’s to hoping he hasn’t hit his ceiling yet…

  • WALT

    What a great place to be able to “vent”. Will be honest with you, I felt traumatized last night, saying no to myself, this is not 2009 or 2010, but it felt like it.  Seeing the guys run around perimeter dribbling (at least this was somewhat positive), then seeing “Alice” type passes, I think were meant for another IU player, but easily picked off by MSU. Felt like basketball’s twilight zone. Balls being stripped away with no effort.  Sure last night MSU was a better team. Roth really stepped up as well as VJIII andCwat. Jordy will be much better vs. OSU. And as long as I am allowed to vent, do not like these football schools out doing IU in basketball. It’s Indiana.

  • Anonymous

    I agree – Hulls played his worst game of the season.  But your overall observation regarding Howard and Stony Brook was unwarranted.  

    What about his performances against the likes of Kentucky (11 pts, 5 assists, 4 steals), NC State (20 pts, 5 assists), Notre Dame (12 and 3) and Butler (14 and 3)?  Where were you then?  Guessing you were either singing his praises or hiding underneath a rock.  With all due respect, one game is not a microcosm of Jordy’s season-long performance thus far.  This is not a sport where “you’re only as good as your last game.”  Let’s wait until we’ve played 5 games in the B1G before jumping to conclusions.    

  • Anonymous

    I agree – Hulls played his worst game of the season.  But your overall observation regarding Howard and Stony Brook was unwarranted.  

    What about his performances against the likes of Kentucky (11 pts, 5 assists, 4 steals), NC State (20 pts, 5 assists), Notre Dame (12 and 3) and Butler (14 and 3)?  Where were you then?  Guessing you were either singing his praises or hiding underneath a rock.  With all due respect, one game is not a microcosm of Jordy’s season-long performance thus far.  This is not a sport where “you’re only as good as your last game.”  Let’s wait until we’ve played 5 games in the B1G before jumping to conclusions.    

  • Anonymous

    Cody isn’t going anywhere until he shows he can score facing the basket and putting the ball on the floor. In the pros he will be a PF..not a center..and he will need a mid-range game to go with it. All that works for IU and Cody having a 3-4 year relationship( I hope).

  • Anonymous

    the only way we have a shot to win the O$U game is if elston has nothing to do with the outcome, i.e. doesn’t play. If THAT can happen i think we have a shot.

  • cooper

    completely agree

  • cooper

    Agree completely. If Hulls can’t hit shots or make better decisions than he did last night, the team should put in Roth. Both are equally awful on D. I don’t mind missing shots but he made horrible decisions. Made a number of bad passes and still struggles getting the ball in the post. For Zeller to only shoot 5 times is insane. Its the PG job to get him the ball.

  • cooper

    Agree completely. If Hulls can’t hit shots or make better decisions than he did last night, the team should put in Roth. Both are equally awful on D. I don’t mind missing shots but he made horrible decisions. Made a number of bad passes and still struggles getting the ball in the post. For Zeller to only shoot 5 times is insane. Its the PG job to get him the ball.

  • Anonymous

    Where did you hear that?

  • Southport65

    I thought teenagers were a fickle bunch but most of you sound like the sky is falling in when a couple of weeks ago you same guys were singing our praises. We are not going to win every game against ranked teams however we should win the games that are ours for the picking with maybe an upset or 2 but guys this knee jerk reactions on kids who are this young is terrible. Shame on you! Now if we start losing games we should win then negative reactions are due. Izzo’s teams are 197-20 at home. They don’t lose their very often to any one period!! Maybe we can give them a beating on 2-28-12 when they come to Bloomington.

  • Anonymous

    I hope you’re ready for a lecture from Stonaroni on why Abell should have had the minutes Moore had. (Had to rib ya a little Roni;)  There’s no question that having Sheehey out of the action hurt us. I was wondering though why we didn’t see a little bit of Austin and Roth paired with Watford, VJ3 and VO. VO and VJ were as good at distributing the ball as Hulls was..and we needed to find our stroke from 3.

  • Anonymous

    Are people here really callling for CTC’s job or for Hulls to ride the pine?!!? I hadn’t seen that anywhere here. There are people who are critical of coaching decisions..and the play of some on the court..true fans have that right. I also haven’t read a lot of comments where someone seemed to be freaking out over losing to a tough team in an historically hostile environment. Most posts i’ve read seem to have an overtone of disappointment in the loss, perhaps frustration more than anger. Frustration that when things weren’t clicking, we didn’t make some radical adjustments in the lineup or strategy.

  • Anonymous

    You have to give some credit to MSU team defense and Coach Izzo for making the job hard for Jordy. I’m pretty sure Hulls wasn’t hoping for a night like last night…

  • Anonymous

    You have to give some credit to MSU team defense and Coach Izzo for making the job hard for Jordy. I’m pretty sure Hulls wasn’t hoping for a night like last night…

  • Anonymous

    Do you have a brother who sorta looks like you? I would give me a hint about your source. I’m wondering if i know you from life on the b-town campus many years ago..if you were the most awsome-est bartender in town back then.

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