Tuesday, January 4, 2011
IU Gets Closer to Breaking Losing Streak
One of these days Indiana has to win a close game. If there’s any fairness in a world where Ohio State football players break NCAA rules and don’t have to pay for it until next season, then the Hoosiers will.
If there’s not any fairness, well, let’s save all the negative stuff for the Michigan football soap opera.
Anyway, the Hoosiers pushed a bigger, better Minnesota team to the brink at Williams Arena. Yeah, they lost again, 67-63 after holding a six-point halftime lead (at one point it was as bi, making it five straight defeats, but they are much, much better than they were in last week’s Penn State loss.
Forget the Ohio State defeat because there’s no way IU beats that team. The Hoosiers (9-7 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten) have been in position late to win their other six losses. Against the Gophers, they trailed by two with less than 10 seconds left and if they could have gotten a steal and not a foul on Jordan Hulls, they might have stolen a victory.
Coach Tom Crean knows it.
“We’re a better team," he said after the game. "We are not the team that was here last year. We are not the team that was here last week. It’s a better team. We had our chances. This would have been a big game to get. I loved our plan. I loved our mindset. I loved our preparation. I wish we had the win. I wish we had the win last Monday night (against Penn State), but we don’t so we keep moving forward and get ready to play Northwestern.”
That game, by the way, is Sunday night at Northwestern.
“We need to have more resolve through the game in the defensive area,” Crean said. “These guys have a winning spirit. They have a winning mindset. It’s just a matter of time before we start to get it.”
Sure, that might be Crean using the media to help motivate his players, but he has a point. The Hoosiers gave themselves a chance by only committing seven turnovers, the best ever by a Crean-coached Indiana team. The fact they did this on the road, while totaling 12 assists, shows a mature, focused approach that bodes well for the future.
That future might be next year, but it’s progress.
“This team deserves to get over the hump and know what that feels like to win one of these games,” Crean said. “It’s coming. I have no doubt.”
You could make a case that Jeremiah Rivers is IU’s MVP so far. Yes, he doesn’t score much, and had zero points against Minnesota, but he is a defensive force capable of guarding any position. He had four assists and no turnovers against the Gophers, which shows a huge improvement over last season when he would drive his way into disaster.
“Jeremiah needed to be three people,” Crean said. “You look at his box score and it doesn’t say much, but he had four assists without a turnover in 24 minutes. He had 11 of our 54 deflections and was asked to lay it on the line every possession.”
You can’t say Victor Oladipo isn’t coachable. Crean was on him about inconsistent free throw shooting. Oladipo responded by going 7-for-8 from the line against Minnesota. He also scored 13 points on the Big Ten road. He’s scored in double figures four straight games. He has a very bright future.
The Hoosiers spent most of their practice time before Minnesota working on defense. They’ll need that same approach against a Northwestern squad that is brutally efficient with its back-door cutting offense. They’ll need the kind of resolve that gives into to nothing.
It’s hard to know when, or if, IU will win the close one. But if it keeps giving itself a chance, anything is possible.
It’s official. Kevin Johns is the new receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Johns coached the last seven seasons at Northwestern, the last five coaching the wide receivers, the last three running the passing game. He also coached the running backs and was the recruiting coordinator at Northwestern.
Under Johns Northwestern had the Big Ten’s top passing offense in 2009, when it ranked 13th nationally. Johns coached three all-conference receivers the last two years in Jeremy Ebert (62 catches for 953 yards and eight touchdowns this past season), Zeke Markshausen (nine TD catches in 2009) and Eric Peterman (737 receiving yards and six TDs in 2008).
As the running backs coach Johns worked with all-conference tailback Noah Herron (ranked 14th nationally by averaging 115.1 yards rushing a game in 2004, and Big Ten freshman of the year Tyrell Sutton (his 122.8 yards a game average ranked eighth nationally in 2005).
Johns worked under new coach Kevin Wilson as a graduate assistant at Northwestern after a standout playing career at the University of Dayton. He led the Flyers to a two-year 20-1 record and was named a NCAA Division I-AA All-America.
“Kevin worked for us at Northwestern and is as strong and talented as any young coach that I have been around,” Wilson said in a university release. “He was a great quarterback at Dayton. He played a vital role in Northwestern’s success. He knows how to build a consistent winning program.”
Johns is the second offensive coach hired by Wilson. Brent Pease was earlier named offensive coordinator.