Indiana prepares for toughest test yet: North Carolina

  • 11/29/2016 9:29 pm in

Indiana will need to be at its best to beat No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, James Blackmon Jr. should be ready to suit up after missing Sunday’s contest with a left knee injury.

“If James continues to progress the way he has, then he’ll be available tomorrow night,” Tom Crean said Tuesday.

Even with Blackmon back, the margin for error for Indiana will be slim. The Hoosiers have struggled when it comes to taking care of the ball, committing at least 15 turnovers in all five games.

“We need to make sure we’re playing smart, we’re playing solid, we’re not trying to make things that aren’t there,” Crean said. “We’re not good enough to do that.”

The Tar Heels have been far better at valuing possessions, turning the ball over on over four percent fewer possessions than Indiana (23.4 for IU to 19.0 for UNC, per KenPom).

Another strength of Roy Williams’ team is its ability to crash the glass. North Carolina has an offensive rebounding percentage that ranks second in the nation at 46.6 percent, per KenPom.

“They cover the weakside boards every time,” Crean said. “If we had clips to show our guys where they don’t, we’d show them. But we haven’t found any.”

In fact, the Tar Heels have the two best offensive rebounders in the country. 6-foot-11 freshman Tony Bradley and 6-foot-10 senior Kennedy Meeks rank first and second in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and both have had games this season with at least seven offensive rebounds.

But the Hoosiers have far more to worry about than just the inside presence of the Tar Heels.

6-foot junior guard Joel Berry II was recently named ACC Player of the Week and is in the early conversation for national player of the year.

Berry has scored at least 18 points in all but three games, and in the Maui Invitational final against Wisconsin, he put up 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

As good as Berry is on the offensive end, North Carolina coach Roy Williams believes the biggest improvement in his game has come on the other end of the floor.

“He got a lot better defensively last year as a sophomore,” Williams told the media Tuesday in Chapel Hill. “I think he has taken another step this year. Part of that is not only understanding how important that is to his game, but I think the better he does defensively, that encourages him and makes him better on the offensive end.”

The list of standout players on the Tar Heels doesn’t end there. Junior Justin Jackson and seniors Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt have also played significant roles in the team’s 7-0 start.

Simply put, Indiana will have its hands full on Branch McCracken Court.

Anunoby still recovering

OG Anunoby may have scored a career-high 21 points on Sunday, but Crean says he is still recovering from the stomach illness that contributed to his poor play against Fort Wayne.

“I don’t think (Anunoby) is over it,” Crean said. “But I think he’s gotta play better. I don’t think he’s at that point yet. I think it really knocked him out last week.”

At times on Sunday, Anunoby looked fatigued and far less explosive than fans are accustomed to. Although he probably won’t be 100 percent, Indiana will need him to be as close to it as possible if they want to come away from Wednesday night with another marquee win.

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  • BL4IU

    Coach was pretty intense in his presser. Hope he can settle himself and his players before tomorrow night. Naturally, 7-0 Roy was a whole lot more relaxed in his presser. Hell, Berry hadn’t even seen tape on IU. Hope they watch the IPFW tape to add to their over-confidence.

  • inLinE6

    No. Not toughest. It was tougher to play Kansas for the first game, in Hawaii. No excuses. We have to beat them. Remember what Isiah Thomas said? We always beat North Carolina.

  • I predicted a loss against KU, because it was so early. I thought we’d be farther along by now, but IPFW really threw a monkey wrench into those expectations. So now, I’m just not going to make any predictions except that it’s going to be a really tough game for this team at this point. OG needs to step it up to another level, JBJ has to play to his strengths and not force things, team defense needs to be at another level as well, and someone needs to kick it up a notch — just like CuJo did against KU. Maybe it’ll be TB, because I know he doesn’t want to lose this game.

  • Austin Alexander

    Don’t fret Mark, we were more than off our game, and OG losing his puppy really hurt us, he’s the key to our defense. With him 100% we’re solid…he’s the Kawhi Leonard…everything else just falls into place around him. (Luckily we don’t have any little French guys like the Spurs however). 🙂

  • Fifer39

    That’s just Roy’s extra training on how to look cool, calm and collected when you’re really pooping yourself. It also comes in handy in front of ncaa infractions committees.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Joel Berry is their leading scorer AND assist man. Is it crazy to think about putting OG on him to totally disrupt their offense? Guarantee he hasn’t faced anyone like that this year. I don’t think their rebounding will get us in this game… IU is 23rd in offensive rebounding, 4th in defensive rebounding and #1 overall in rebound margin.

  • IULore

    Toughest? How is this the toughest by any stretch? I’m doing another guarantee, IU Wins tonight! Book it!

  • Lance76

    Last year NCAA sweetsixteen we had JM with shoulder issue, CH with wrist? issue and RJ was out with ankle. If NC blazes the nets again with 3 point makes then I guess they deserve the win. We may be a little weaker @ 3 point line, but my money is still on OG, TB and DD. I still remember the look on TB’s face after that game. Hope NC feels the Duke crowd is friendly compared to IU.

  • I think I’d be nervous even without the IPFW game. But that lackluster effort really rocked my confidence in the team (so far, I’m just as excited longer term). But hey, tonight could completely erase any lingering doubts.

  • Yeah, I’m convinced that with RJ playing in last year’s game, it’s a lot closer and we probably win. Paige going off destroyed the game plan–suddenly we had to guard a historically poor outside shooting team on the perimeter, leaving the frontcourt unattended. But, this is a better shooting UNC team than last year, if I’m not mistaken, and they’re even stronger inside. AH will be rocking for sure, but we’re going to need to bring our absolute very bestest best game to pull out the win.

  • TomJameson

    AND … He’s only 6′ tall. 🙂 Some wouldn’t want him to play for IU just on that stat. Sorry to be that thorn, just thought that was interesting.

  • Hoosierkamp

    I was at that game. We forget Troy and Yogi made a lot of shots. We still got crushed. I think they ran into a buzz saw that night. UNC wasnt a good shooting team that were crazy….. No one would have won that game.

    I hope IU is the buzz saw tonight

  • I hear you. It’s just that Paige hit those three 3’s early, which disrupted our game plan of defending inside. With RJ providing his perimeter defense (which was stellar right before his injury finally knocked him out), maybe that doesn’t happen and our game plan remains intact.


    Still remember Williams telling Crean in the post game handshake that, ” he has never shot the 3 like that in his life and probably never will again “

  • Well, hopefully tonight it’ll be us shooting lights out.

  • I think RJ is a good choice to keep him in check. We’ll need OG disrupting things inside, I think.