Jeff Howard starts, Jeremy Hollowell scores a career-high

  • 11/26/2013 11:59 pm in

As the news circulated, Indiana fans were perplexed.

When Indiana’s starting lineup was announced for its seventh game of the season on Tuesday night against Evansville, sophomore Jeremy Hollowell, who had started the Hoosiers’ six prior games, was excluded. In his place, senior walk-on Jeff Howard — who had played only 85 minutes of college basketball in his career — would start.

The buzz generated on social media led to “Jeff Howard” trending nationally on Twitter during much of Indiana’s 77-46 win against Evansville, as the Hoosiers advanced to 6-1 in the 2013-2014 season.

“Coach did what he did for his reasons,” Howard said following the game, in which he scored two points, grabbed three rebounds and had one assist in 15 minutes of action. “I just came and brought to the team what I bring to the team.”

Before Tuesday’s game, Indiana coach Tom Crean told both Howard and Hollowell the news. His reasoning, Crean insisted, was that Howard “epitomized what we wanted out there in the form of energy, communication and intensity.”

But Howard has played only eight minutes this entire season. There was no intention, Crean said, of trying to “light a fire” for Hollowell to perform better.

“To me, it’s always up for debate on the outside but it’s never up for debate on the inside: It’s who’s going to really come out and bring their very best every day, and every day is measured,” Crean said. “I don’t think it was any one thing of trying to light a fire, so to speak, I think we were trying to give ourselves the best chance to start this game.”

When Hollowell found out the news, he said he “just went with it.” In his first six games of the season, he went 16-for-45 from the field and led the team with 18 turnovers.

Less than a minute after he came of the bench at the 14:31 mark of the first half, Hollowell took his first shot: a 3-pointer. It went in, and he gave Indiana a 15-2 lead.

It was the start of a career-night for the 6-foot-8 Indianapolis native, who had 18 points on 4-of-8 shooting and 8-of-9 free throws, three rebounds, two steals and only one turnover.

“My shot was falling, attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line,” Hollowell said. “Seeing the extra work pay off with my jump shot — I’ve been getting up a lot of reps — seeing that pay off, I feel like that’s been helping a lot.”

Evansville offense stifled

Time after time on Tuesday night, Evansville coach Marty Simmons would walk down the sideline at Assembly Hall shaking his head.

Coming into the game, the Aces had one of the NCAA’s top offenses. They averaged 90.2 points per game, had the nation’s top 3-point shooting percentage (52.7 percent) and were outscoring their opponents by a 13.6 point-per-game clip.

And then, Evansville ran into an Indiana team that caused all sorts of problems for the Aces.

“There’s a lot of things we felt like we’ve done pretty well to this point and we got away from it tonight,” Simmons said. “We’ve got to be a detailed team. We didn’t execute very well, and IU had a lot to do with that. Their length, their effort, size…”

Just 5:29 into the game, Indiana got out to a 12-0 lead. From there, the Aces were playing catch-up all night but never trimmed the score to a single-digit deficit. The Aces shot 29.1 percent from the field and just 18.8 percent from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 15 times.

And Evansville’s final scoring output of 46 points was its fewest since it scored the same amount against Missouri State on March 4, 2010. Its leading scorer, sophomore D.J. Balentine — who averaged 29.6 points per game — scored only 14 points off 5-of-17 shooting.

“They did a lot of good things, and we weren’t patient,” Simmons said. “I just think their communication — they switched up some things on us —  got us stagnant.”

“We have tremendous respect for Evansville and for the offensive firepower that they had,” Crean added. “The numbers were very high and very real and when you watch them on film. We were absolutely committed to doing the best job we could do defensively.”

Syracuse up next

With a week off for the Hoosiers to enjoy Thanksgiving, Indiana will next play on Dec. 3 at No. 8 Syracuse as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Orange are undefeated thus far this season at 6-0 and will play in the Maui Invitational title game against No. 18 Baylor on Wednesday.

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  • Sphinx 98

    Translation…..Jeremy, Jeff is diving for lose balls in practice, boxing out, making great decisions and even making the best tasting Gatorade. You on the other hand, have the affect of a zombie on The Walking Dead, shoot air ball three pointers, have difficulty catching the ball, dribble off your feet and often dribble the ball into the defensive traps. With all this said, I am starting Jeff tonight because he is just too fundamentally sound to keep riding the pine behind you.

  • Sean G

    I actually think you could replace “Jeremy” with “the whole team” since basically any of the other scholarship players could have started and people would have not been quite as surprised. IMO, Coach did it less to single out and “light a fire” under Jeremy and more to just prove a point to the team as a whole that fundamentals, energy, communication, and effort will be rewarded above raw talent. Someone had to sit to prove this point and, as you pointed out, Jeremy was not playing nearly as well as the rest of the starters. I do think it was a motivating factor in Jeremy’s performance last night, but I hope the rest of the team took something from it as well.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Kudos to Tom Crean for starting a guy that earned it. CTC clearly thought that starting Howard was best for the team and it’s hard to argue with the results. A great start that ignited a dominant victory.

  • And_One

    Liking the defensive intensity. That kind of effort could keep them in a lot of games where they’re overmatched.
    Now a week off to rest up, to give thanks, and to prepare for the 2-3 zone.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Classy move as well to get Jeff Howard a start during his senior year. There are so many moving parts of the decision I assume, and am glad it worked out well.

  • SCHoosier

    I think it was a reward for Howard..and a well earned one. That said..who does TC think he’s kidding when he publicly says he wasn’t trying to motivate JH. I mean come onl Of course he was also quoted after the game as saying ” I really don’t look at who’s done the scoring” Well that would explain a lot also. Love TC but sometimes you have to wonder…..

  • SCHoosier

    I think JH can do with a little less pressure. Last 2 games a play was run to get him the last shot ( 3pter) of the first half. Against UCONN he hurried and slammed it off the back rim..last night he shot an air ball in t he same situation. Rest of the game he seemed in the flow was was taking a nice stroke. His putting he ball on the floor is another story…a young Wat all over again in terms of not knowing when to do it and when not too.

  • dwdkc

    Like most coaches, he doesn’t choose to put everything out there in public. I think the kids know what he is thinking however.

  • Outoftheloop

    IU jumped out to a 12-0 lead with Howard on the floor. That is good use of personnel!

  • Outoftheloop

    This group will never be “over-matched” but they will be inconsistent, average-to-poor shooting and TO prone. The only question is will great rebounding, great athletic talent, great defensive intensity and a relentless and abundant supply of talent on the bench overcome these short-comings?

  • 3AM Burrito

    If you can’t show some admiration for how Hollowell came in and had arguably his best game of his career after being benched, you will probably never like Hollowell. He showed more intensity, even on defense he had a nice steal. Being benched and also how many fans (myself included) have been critical of him he could have easily folded or mailed it in but I was impressed he played a strong game. I still am unsure if he can be the do all multi dimensional player they tout, but last night at least shows he has some fire and determinarion to be a strong contributor if used the right way.


    Right he wasn’t trying to build a fire under JH AND send a message just like I DON’T want to win the lottery.

  • Ron Chron

    As soon as conference rolls around, our five starters should be: Yogi, Will, Noah, Jeremy, and Luke. Devin Davis and Troy Williams should be our first subs. Hanner Parea deserves less minutes than Jeff Howard