Sunday, December 18, 2011

IU Basketball – Sweeping the week, and more

How many shots should Cody Zeller take in a game?

How many free throw attempts should Jordan Hulls take in a game?

The correct answer –- as many as they possibly can.

Zeller has become the Big Ten’s best big man this side of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. He can run, score, rebound and take cheap shots without flinching or acting like a fool. He tied his career high by taking 14 shots, and making eight, while scoring a game-high 21 points in the win over Notre Dame. He averages 15.6 points and shoots at a 66-percent clip. He should take between 15 and 20 shots a game.

Hulls went 2-for-2 from the line against Notre Dame, which makes him 13-for-13 for the season and extends his school record to 54 in a row. He hasn’t missed in over a year. In an ideal world, he would take about six free throws a game. Check that. In an ideal world, he'd take 20 free throws a game, but that's not realistic, and we're all about realism.

ABSOLUTELY TRUE FACT NO. 1: Did we mention that we once beat Hulls in a free throw shooting contest?

ABSOLUTELY TRUE FACT NO. 2: Did we also mention we have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy?

But we digress.

If you check the box of the Notre Dame game, you’ll notice IU had 16 offensive rebounds. That’s more than twice as many as the Irish (seven) and reflects coach Tom Crean’s emphasis on the little things that matter.

Here’s what he had to say about it.

“(Offensive rebounding) is huge for us. We’ve spent a lot of time on rebounding, whether it’s a break-down drill or a live 5-on-5 situation. Guard rebounds have to be huge for us.”

Against Notre Dame, Hoosier guards Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Verdell Jones and Remy Abell combined for eight offensive rebounds and 22 total rebounds.

“Victor and Will had five offensive rebounds and that’s good, that’s progress,” Crean said. “Those two have to be very good on the offensive glass. That keeps balls alive. That’s an area we know we’ve needed to get better. We are getting better at it, especially in the last three weeks. Still, we have a ton of room for improvement as we get into the Big Ten.”

The Big Ten comes after Christmas. First comes tonight's game against Howard (3-8) and Thursday night's game against UMBC (1-9). Here’s the bottom line – IU will sweep the week.

And then the REAL season will begin.


Want to know why the Hoosiers won’t take Howard and UMBC lightly?

Because Crean won’t allow it. He wants good, strong, energetic practices, and then play to match if not surpass it. If not, well, we’ll let Crean tell you that.

“If there comes a day when there’s not energy we’ll start over later that night,” Crean said. “It’s not a complicated process. This is not where we have anybody in the program who is above having to get better every day.”

Crean has done this in previous seasons. So far he hasn't done it this season, and almost certainly won't because these Hoosiers have the maturity and experience to do what needs to be done.

So now you know.


We learned this secret about Crean while covering the Crossroads Classic in Indy:

He speaks in tongues.

Okay, it was really a kind of coaches’ code, in which Crean shouted instructions using mysterious terms usually found on self-destructing tapes that end with the promise that should we be caught or killed, the Secretary of Defense will disavow any knowledge of our existence.

Seriously, we didn’t know what Crean was saying, all we knew was he looked hyper intense saying it.

And then the Hoosiers responded.

IU stormed back from an early nine-point deficit against Notre Dame, mostly because it defended Notre Dame into some of the worst offense this side of the two-handed-set-shot era. The Irish missed 16 straight shots at one point. That’s hard to do. You’d figure that something would fall in just by chance.

You’d have figured wrong.

It wasn't the most stylish win in Hoosier history, but it was a win and propelled them to a 10-0 start. That hasn't happened since 1989. That's all the style that matters.

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