Hoosiers and Illini to battle in Champaign; Crean elaborates on Fischer’s departure

  • 12/31/2013 7:04 am in

Indiana fans might like to forget the last time the Hoosiers played in Champaign, Ill.

On Feb. 7 earlier this year, the then-No. 1 Hoosiers went into Illinois and collapsed, losing on a buzzer-beating layup to an unranked Illini squad. Almost 11 months later, on the final day of the calendar year at 3 p.m. ET today, the two teams will face off again at the State Farm Center.

This time, though, it will be under a completely different set of circumstances.

Both teams have undergone significant changes heading into today’s Big Ten opener. Illinois (11-2) lost three of its five leading scorers in seniors D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey, and Indiana (10-3) lost four of its five starters over the offseason.

And while both teams are unranked in the early goings of the 2013-2014 season, each has adjusted to their new set of circumstances. Which makes today’s game that much more interesting: It’s a test to gauge where both teams are at right now.

“In order for us to win, we’ve just got to stay together,” sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell said on Monday before the team left for Champaign. “Don’t get into all the hype, all the outside stuff. We know it’s going to be loud in there, even more than last year. So we’re ready for it.”

As much as Indiana’s team dynamic has changed over the past 11 months, with Ferrell and senior Will Sheehey becoming the faces of the program, Illinois has changed, as well.

With the departures of Paul, Richardson and Griffey, Illini coach John Groce has simply instilled a next-man-up system, as new and familiar faces have propelled his team to early wins against UNLV and No. 25 Missouri. They are running the same system as last season, Indiana coach Tom Crean noted on Monday, but they’re also playing to the new strengths of their team.

Illinois returned Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Nnanna Egwu to the mix, but Groce also brought in seniors such as Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice and Illinois State transfer Jon Ekey in addition to freshmen Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. And through the Illini’s first 13 games, they have not missed a beat.

“They’ve got one of the more experienced teams of understanding how to play basketball; how to win,” Crean said. “John is a great coach —  I mean not a good coach, a great coach. There’s no doubt about that.

“There’s not a lot of things that you look at and say they don’t do. And I think what they do is they really, really play hard. I mean really play hard. That Missouri win was impressive.”

In particular, the Hoosiers have been impressed with Rice, who is leading the Illini with an average 18.2 points per game. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound guard also is averaging 5.5 rebounds per game and plays the most minutes out of anyone on Illinois’s entire roster. Crean called him a “bulldozer” in getting to the basket.

“I mean, he’s been playing college basketball for a while, so he knows how to play,” Sheehey said. “He’s got a good feel for it and they run a good offense, so he can get into spots and likes to score.

“He’s a big guy, he’s strong. He gets you where he wants on the court. So you’ve got to make sure you stay in front of him and make sure you don’t give him too many angles.”

As the Hoosiers prepare for their conference opener today, they know they will not only have to match the Illini’s intensity, but also counteract their strengths — offensive rebounding, not turning the ball over, limiting opponents in getting to the free throw line and holding them to only a 45.6 effective field percentage are just some of them — if they want to come out of Champaign with a win.

Like the game on Feb. 7, it won’t be easy, but both teams have changed. And the Hoosiers are ready for the challenge.

“They’re playing like an experienced team, and we’re going to have to go in there and we’re going to have to match that intensity, that emotion,” Crean said. “But we also have to match that intelligence they play with.

“They’re hard to beat there. They don’t beat themselves.”

Crean elaborates on Fischer’s departure

Perhaps the biggest news that came out of Bloomington on Monday happened only minutes before Crean spoke to the media, as it was announced that freshman Luke Fischer had chosen to transfer from the program and seek playing opportunities elsewhere.

The 6-foot-11, 230-pound center from Germantown, Wis., had played in all 13 of Indiana’s games and was averaging 10 minutes per game, even posting a career-high 10 points in his latest — and final — outing on Dec. 22 against Kennesaw State.

Crean said Fischer informed him of his desire to transfer at around 10 a.m. Monday morning and that his team will move on from there.

“It is what it is, and you wish him the best,” Crean said. “We’ll miss his potential. We’ll miss him as a person. He did an outstanding job here, academically. He’s an excellent young man. And we move right on. The team moves right on, practice moves right on, and we just go. That’s really what it was.”

Fischer’s departure, though, leaves Indiana thin on the front-court. The Hoosiers now have only three players on their roster taller than 6-foot-8, and 7-foot center Peter Jurkin has played a total of 10 minutes this entire season. They do have 6-foot-10 freshman Noah Vonleh and 6-foot-9 forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who have both played significant minutes this season, but Fischer’s departure leaves Indiana without a natural post player. Crean hopes, however, that will simply lead for another player to step up.

“It creates more opportunity,” Crean said. “I mean Luke had good potential, there’s no doubt about that. But it just creates people to take advantage of the opportunity, that’s all you can really ask for. That’s really what it is. Time doesn’t wait for anybody. You’ve just got to go, and that’s exactly where we’re at.”

Filed to:

  • Tucson Hoosier

    I really hate to say it, but I am starting to get weary of Crean myself. He was totally out coached this Illinois game.

  • Jeeps Johnstone

    Dan Dakich is still sore that he wasn’t hired over Crean. We will forever hear how everything Crean does is wrong and what he should have done. Dakich was an average coach at best. Those who can’t….

  • hoosier1158

    That was one of the greatest coaching strategies i have ever seen when Noah picked up his 4th foul with 3 mins plus left on the clock. Pull Noah out and save him for the end of the game.

  • CrimsonBill

    Yeah, I was saying a kid leaving IU was a violation of the Constitution. Or maybe the Bill of Rights. Or the Emancipation Proclamation. Yeah, definitely.
    This is a device known as sarcasm. There are other devices used in written discourse, but you’ll figure it out as you go. Hang in there, partner.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    I agree Raynger, but calling the coach names, making fun of his personality, and posting 20 times why you hate the coach goes beyond criticizing (not directing this at you). If you’re a fan of the team, you’re a fan of the players and a fan of the coach. A true fan should comment on the team with respect, not name calling.

  • Snookafly

    I like Groce. I’ve never seen a schwanz that big wearing a suit.

  • IUBizmark

    Who’s “holloway?”

  • Bricklayer

    Why are you stalking someone on this forum?

  • Bricklayer

    You write like a troll.

  • Bricklayer

    People don’t want to waste too much time responding to people with room temperature IQs

  • Bricklayer

    Please go away and find another team/coach/state to rag on in 2014

  • Bricklayer

    Excellent and well said!

  • Scooter

    He made 2 3’s and the kid is barely 18. He has huge upside

  • Ole Man

    What are you mumbling about?
    I didn’t ask for them on another board.
    Also, my comment was addressed to someone else.
    ROFL. You gave yourself an appropriate name.

  • Ole Man

    Not complete; but more transparency would help.

  • JethroTroll

    Truth hurts Ol’ Man.

  • TomJameson

    You ole cynical man, you have no reason to start anything with me. And I don’t want to hear you talk about anybody calling anybody else names. You do as much as anybody else.
    I quoted a stat to clear up a question. All of the experts agree with these stats, google it yourself. If ALL the experts don’t agree with you, perhaps you should admit that you really are NOT the worlds foremost expert, and perhaps you are … dare I say it … WRONG!!!
    You are the most negative person on this list. Sometimes I agree with you, but most people here don’t wade through a morass of negativity like you do. I really am starting to just feel sorry for you.

  • Raynger

    He was above average at Bowling Green- look it up.

  • Ole Man

    You haven’t quoted any stats, loud mouth. As to being the most negative?
    A: you’re wrong.
    B: I don’t give a hoot about your lousy opinions.
    C: Look in the mirror if you want to feel sorry for someone

  • Ole Man

    No, I’m speaking directly to you. You don’t have the respect, grace, and intelligence to disagree with someone using those three attributes.
    You couldn’t say, “Nobody was forced out…and this is why?”
    Instead, you resorted to name calling.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    Scooter has posted dozens and dozens of messages stating that he hates Crean, and most of those posts are immature name calling, not constructive criticism. He doesn’t deserve respect. You and him should go out together, dumb and dumber.

  • Jeeps Johnstone

    He was 159-144 over his coaching career. That’s a .524 winning percentage. His last 2 seasons at BG were abysmal, which probably is why he was canned. He was 22-39 over those two seasons. He barely falls into your ‘above average’ category. He still is sore about not being hired by IU. He was an average coach at best.

  • Ole Man

    So, if you imitate Scooter, it’s alright?
    And don’t forget, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    Who are you imitating old man? Don’t you have bingo game to go to, or a UK pep rally? Give up your holier than thou attitude and try spreading hope and good news for a change. Your comments are as tired and old as your screen name.

  • TomJameson

    Why don’t you try to keep it positive ole cynic? Just because somebody doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean you can call them names. I’m not a loud mouth, and I don’t call names like you do. Grow up.
    A: The article I cut-n-pasted was correct.
    B: NOBODY gives a hoot about you
    C: I still feel sorry for you
    D: don’t forget your meds again

  • Mastelly23

    Cool – care to elaborate at all? Or will you continue to just say things others perceive as wild accusations and then not back them up in the slightest?

  • VanPastorMan

    I sure hate Luke’s dunk in his last game where he reminded me of Cody. Wish him the best and hope he makes a good decision on the next step of his life.

  • Raynger

    Yes it was not a stellar record but relative to other coaches at that program he was above average. He was good enough to get offered a job at West Virginia.

  • Jeeps Johnstone

    Not exactly a rousing endorsement. I think he will always carry that chip on his shoulder. I like him as an announcer. He has some great insight, but he needs to lay off the Crean bashing.

  • Raynger

    Ive not heard Dakich bash cream. I’ve heard other commentators make statements about Crean’s wholesale substitutions at the wrong time during the game. I think many of us find his coaching skill during the game a little deficient.

  • Andrew

    Just because ‘true fans” care about every single little nugget” doesn’t mean you get to know every little nugget. Fans are not entitled to every last bit of personal information about a kid transferring. Any transfer could have a disease, illness, death in the family, academic problems; you think you have a RIGHT to know that as a fan! Get over yourself…