Saturday, January 8, 2011

Say What? IU Seeks Northwestern Break; Is Pease Bolting Hoosiers?

Jeremiah Rivers didn’t morph into Joe Namath guaranteeing a victory. When your team has lost five straight, as Indiana’s has, when it’s struggling to regain the glory of its tradition, you don’t go anywhere near that bulletin board material.

Still, as IU prepares for a slumping Northwestern squad (three straight losses, although all against ranked teams), there is optimism and Rivers won’t talk around it. The Hoosiers have lost seven games and six have gone down to the final minutes. Last Tuesday at Minnesota, one of the toughest places to win for a visiting team in the country, they were within seconds of a comeback victory.

There is no frustration, Rivers says. Check that. There is, but it’s squashed by hope and belief that IU (9-7) is closing in on a season-changing win.

“We’re as close as we’ve ever been. This is the game we’re going to win. We’re not going in there to lay down. We’re going in to get this. We’re ready. We’re prepared. Sunday will be a good day.”

Rivers, a senior guard, speaks with passion and conviction, but talking is easy, doing is hard. Still, his sincerity is reflected in his teammates, who while not as definitive, still exude optimism, which is half the battle in the drive to return the program to its winning ways.

“We’re not discouraged,” guard Jordan Hulls says. “We’re excited. We’re getting better at defense. We’re moving the ball on offense.”

Defense has been a mountain-sized flaw this season and if that continues, Northwestern (9-4) will cut the Hoosiers to pieces. It runs the Princeton offense, which involves a lot of screens and cuts to the basket and movement. It requires smart players in tune with their system and what the defense gives them.

The Wildcats have plenty of smarts and, it seems, plenty of tune. Combating that requires full-throttle focus and attention to detail.

“I don’t know if you can guard those guys one way,” coach Tom Crean said. “No matter what you think you know about their system, they know it so much more. They’ve got an answer for everything. Not only their system but certainly their personnel. We’ve got to be really locked in to what their strengths are. They have team strengths and individual strengths. We have to know both equally well.”

Northwestern will work the back-door cuts for layups. Guard that too tightly and it leaves you vulnerable to their three-point shooting. They average 24 three-point attempts a game. Against Illinois, they took 38.

“We have to have discipline, but you can’t have paralysis by analysis,” Crean said. “They are a quick-moving team. They cut. They never stop cutting hard. Ever. They never stop reading their cuts.

“You’ve got to be disciplined, but you have to have energy, some emotion. You’ve got to be willing to defend every cut. They live on ball movement and it doesn’t matter if they back cut or take a three-point shot. You have to limit their touches on the three-point line. There can’t be a lot of space there.”

IU has spent the season giving teams space to shoot threes. If it has learned its lesson, it has a chance. If not, well, you know what the outcome will be. Crean won’t go there.

“We need a breakthrough,” Crean said. “Hopefully it comes (tonight).”


Are you serious? Is Brent Pease, barely on the job a week as IU offensive coordinator, REALLY leaving to return to Boise State?

It’s a strong possibility. A Boise, Idaho, TV station reported that Pease will be Boise State’s new offensive coordinator. Pease had been the Broncos’ assistant head coach/wide receiver coach before accepting Kevin Wilson’s offer to run the Hoosiers’ offense.

Boise State’s offensive coordinator job came open when Bryan Harsin recently left to become the offensive coordinator at Texas.

At least the Hoosiers still have Kevin Johns as passing game coordinator and receiver coach. He came from Northwestern. Wilson will have to find a new offensive coordinator, plus the rest of his offensive staff. He also needs a defensive ends coach.

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