Thursday, December 16, 2010

Basketball Flash -- IU Hopes To ‘Rebound’ Against SIU-Edwardsville

Indiana coaches had a message for Indiana players this week in practice -- rebound.

Yes, the Hoosiers have heard this all season. But after the way Kentucky manhandled them on the boards, the message took on extra urgency. And since IU had basically a week between that loss and tonight’s SIU-Edwardsville game, the coaches had plenty of time to make it a point of emphasis.

“As bigs we have to get a little stronger,” forward Derek Elston said. “That’s what we worked on all week. We kind of battled. I feel good about it.”

Specifically, this was the practice deal. Four players had to crash the boards on every shot while one player dropped back on defense. No exceptions. No excuses.

“(Coaches) said, if you’re not going (to the boards), we’re going to stop and run,” Elston said.

Running (or the threat of running) can be a wonderful motivator and, in this case, Elston said, it worked.

“We got better. The big thing is to go in there to rebound. Go in there with a purpose. Everybody got to the point where it’s locked in your mind that when the ball goes up, we’re just going.”

Locking it in practice is one thing. Doing it in games sometimes becomes a different animal.

It likely won’t make much different against SIU-Edwardsville, a team in transition, a program in flux. For years it was a solid Division II program as part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Then it decided to move to Division I and life got more complex. It won 10 games two years ago, five last season. This year it is 2-9 and has as much chance to beat the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall as the New York Jets suspended strength coach has of winning NFL Man of the Year honors.

You won’t hear that from the Hoosiers. If you did, you wouldn’t see them in the game. Instead, they’d probably be running laps around Cook Hall. Elston, for one, wants to play. He calls SIU-E a “Good team. They like to run. They have a lot of guys who can shoot. We’ll try to stick to our game plan.”

The plan includes beating SIU-E, then doing the same to South Carolina State on Sunday. Then it’s off to Las Vegas and a game against Northern Iowa on Wednesday and either New Mexico or Colorado on Thursday.

All this is part of the Las Vegas Classic, a non-conference tourney that offers four games (coach Tom Crean is big on that) and a chance to play two of those games at home (at least for the Hoosiers).

“This is fun,” Elston said.

IU will have two days in Vegas to prepare and fun needs to be tempered at a place known as Sin City, where temptation is a 24-hour-a-day concern.

Hey, we’ve seen, “The Hangover.” Do you want the Hoosiers involved in something like that?

Anyway, they certainly won’t be practicing all that time and, because the semester is over, there is no studying to do. So what will they do to occupy their time?

For now it’s a mystery.

“They haven’t told us what we’re going to do,” Elston said. “It’s a business trip, so we’ll just win some games. See what happens after that.”

Here’s what needs to happen first -- beat SIU-Edwardsville.

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