Friday, November 19, 2010

‘Maturing’ Hoosiers Set Sights on Evansville

This is an Indiana basketball schedule a player has to love. It has a bunch of games in a short period of time, which means fewer and shorter practices.

For a while, at least.

Sure, coaches always talk about how much they’re looking forward to practice and getting better and working hard and being consistent, which is fine, but players want to play. If you could have a season of 40 games and three practices, they’d love it.

Indiana opened its season by playing three games in five days, and decisively wining all three. Now it will play three games in six days, starting with Sunday’s home game against Evansville.

You can talk about the wear and tear of playing so many games in such a short span, but if the Hoosiers weren’t playing, it’s not like they’d be lounging on a couch eating Cheetos. They’d be practicing for long hours with full-throttle intensity to continue building the competitiveness and tenacity necessary to thrive in what looms as a brutal Big Ten schedule.

Instead, they have games, and if the opponents don’t always resemble Duke, that’s okay. IU doesn’t need to play Duke right now. It does need to understand purpose, concentration and attention to detail.

The 3-0 start, a first in the Tom Crean era, and solid victories suggests that’s coming along nicely.

“They have a good mindset,” Crean said. “They have a very good focus. They are locking in to the game plan. They are locking into what we have to do to get better.

“We have to do it every day, and that’s a sign of maturity. Can you do it every day and not just when you’re winning or not just in a stand (of games) like this. To play the way they did and prepare the way they did in three games in five days says a lot about them in the first week of the season. Now it’s a whole other week. We’ve got to make sure we keep taking it further.”

IU faces a 2-0 Evansville team that has four double figure scorers, led by Kenny Harris’ 15.5-point average. Granted, the Aces also haven’t played the equivalent of a Duke, but that doesn’t mean Crean doesn’t understand the challenges.

“They’re averaging 80-points a game and shooting 57 percent from the field,” Crean said. “They make plays and work well together. We are going to see more screens and more curls and more slips in one game that we’ve seen in three games all together. We are going to have to be prepared to deal with it.”

Figure the Hoosiers will be prepared.

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