Monday, January 24, 2011
Best Thing For Indiana Basketball -- Beat Illinois
In the last couple of weeks IU has lost Verdell Jones and Maurice Creek to injury, and you’d better believe it hurts. It cost the Hoosiers 20 points and five rebounds a game.
Those are just numbers. But it’s so much more than that.
Creek we’ve known about for a while. He recently had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right patella and is almost certainly done for the season.
Jones was a surprise. He didn’t dress Sunday at Iowa because of swelling in his knee. In terms of what happened, coach Tom Crean addressed it during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference.
“We think it might have started bothering him a little in the Michigan game (on Jan. 15), but it wasn’t anything that stopped him from playing at a high level,” Crean said. “Thursday morning, he tweaked it a little bit, but he played through it, and it started to bother him more in the Wisconsin game. I’m not sure if he got bumped or hit it during the game, but you could tell it was different, especially in the second half.
“He was moving a little more gingerly in the second half, even though he continued to play at a pretty high level. Friday, we didn’t practice him, even though we really didn’t practice as much as we walked through. He went through that, but then we determined with the swelling that we probably needed to have an MRI.
“Saturday was the day that we pretty much knew he was not going to be available to us on Sunday.
“It really is one of those situations right now that we’re just going to have to wait and see. There’s really not a timeline on it. He’s going to rehabilitate as much as possible. They’ll continue to treat it and we’re in an indefinite period.”
How much did not having Jones against Iowa hurt? Well, the Hoosiers did score 77 points, which is more than their season average. But as a junior and a three-year starter, Jones provides on-court leadership that would have helped on the road.
“(Against Iowa) it showed that we didn’t have Verdell’s leadership,” Crean said. “We missed his basketball abilities. There’s no doubt about that. But we really, really missed the fact that his leadership wasn’t there.”
IU’s biggest problem at Iowa was lousy defense. The Hawkeyes scored almost 30 points more than their season average in beating the Hoosiers 91-77. We want to be diplomatic here, but Jones is not a defensive stopper. He will not be remembered for his shut-down-the-other-guy ability. Not having him is not the same as, say, Purdue not having Chris Kramer last season.
Crean said the Hoosiers played “soft” and “that can’t happen.”
He’s right, but the fact remains that it did, had happened before and almost certainly will again. Crean has mentioned that IU has worked on defense from Day One and to still sometimes look so bad while trying to play it is, well, very disappointing. The Hoosiers have put in too much time and energy into defense to play it so poorly, not matter who is hurt.
Still, and we can’t say this firmly enough, it is going to get better. Crean will turn things around. But it really, really needs to be sooner rather than later. Otherwise it will start getting ugly.
We’ve seen what happens when ugly and Indiana mix. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t good. And the best cure, really the only cure, is to start winning. After a while, nobody cares about who’s hurt, who’s young and how bad a coaching choice Kelvin Sampson was.
People just want to win -- period.
Thursday against Illinois would be a great place to start.