Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can IU Get 'Revenge' Against Wisconsin

When it comes to size, Verdell Jones will never remind anyone of, say, a Sumo wrestler or even LeBron Jones. He’s a slender guy who struggles to put on weight, a negative now, a positive if it stays after age 30.

The sophomore guard didn’t need the flu that slowed his February surge or the weight loss that limited his production against Minnesota. But then, getting what you need isn't always part of the college basketball deal.

“I lost so much weight," Jones said. "It’s going to take me a while to get it back. I got weaker. I got back in the weight room to get stronger, but it will take time. All those bumps you get in a game affects me more.”

Now No. 17 Wisconsin (20-7) is coming to Assembly Hall and Jones has to play well for the slumping Hoosiers (eight straight losses and counting) to have a chance. It was Wisconsin, after all, who buried IU by 28 points in Madison earlier this month.

Yes, the Hoosiers remember.

“I’m a lot better,” Jones said. “I’m healthy and ready to get a little revenge.”

He laughed. There’s a line that revenge is a dish best served cold, but basically the Wisconsin game is not about revenge but playing well, defending relentlessly, moving the ball consistently. It’s about 40 minutes of mental and physical effort.

Oh, yes. And winning.

The Hoosiers insist they do that in practice. Coach Tom Crean joked that if he wasn’t “such a jerk,” he’d open practices so the media could see. Someday, when the time is right, he said, he’d open a practice. Of course, everything would be off the record. Wisdom and insight, it seems, come with restrictions.

No matter. Jones insisted improvement has come because, “We’re getting after each other in practice. At the beginning of the year we were afraid to hurt each other’s feelings. Now, we’re fed up with losing. We’ll do whatever we have to do to stop it.”

That feeling first surfaced after the Loyola loss in December, he added, but really kicked in during this losing streak of double-digit defeats.

“Some of these losses were embarrassing,” Jones said. “We shouldn’t lose games like we’re losing. Our pride is starting to kick in. We had the talent that we could match some of these teams’ talent if we had played hard.”

Crean doesn’t want embarrassment, he wants wins. He longs for the day when IU’s depth is to the point where he can bench players who don’t produce. He called it a coach’s No. 1 motivational tool. Jones agreed.

“It’s a great motivator,” Jones said. “It really gets you into the game and makes you give it your all because you don’t want to be on the bench.”

Jones’ father did it to him when the elder Jones was coaching an AAU team several years ago. The team was facing an opponent that had a strong guard. Jones and the guard were good enough to draw college coaches. But when Jones failed to do what was necessary, his father benched him.

“It showed me a lesson,” Jones said. “He made a point. I was heated about it, but it worked.”

No comments:

Post a Comment