What did we learn from Indiana’s crunching of North Carolina Central?
For one thing, Jim Harbaugh is not a Michigan spy.
For another, Will Sheehey is rounding back into December form after his ankle injury, which will really come in handy come March.
As for what it will mean for these last three Big Ten games – Sunday’s trip to Minnesota, and then home games against Michigan State on Tuesday and Purdue on Sunday, we’ll have to see.
First, Harbaugh was in town thanks to the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He’s the San Francisco 49ers head coach and Tom Crean’s brother in law and he was very much into the 75-56 victory. He talked to the Hoosiers multiple times on Wednesday, the gist of which was play hard and listen to your coaches.
Hey, you don’t think he’d have told them to, “Do your own thing and to heck with what Crean says,” do you?
He sat on the bench during games, and helped carry the stools players use to sit on during timeouts onto the court and then onto the court. It was not, Crean said, the price he paid for a good seat.
“That was his idea,” Crean said. “He wasn’t under any conditions. He’s a team guy. He epitomizes what you want. It shows why he’s a successful leader as a player and a coach. There’s no job above him and no job beneath him.”
A couple of weeks ago Harbaugh and his brother, John, the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, had met with the Hoosiers and their talked helped inspire the team to a 78-61 win at Purdue, and a three-game winning streak.
“I hope we go on another roll,” Crean said. “The last time he and John were here, we went on a pretty good roll. Give them credit.”
Crean was jokingly asked if he was concerned, because Harbaugh was a Michigan graduate, if some spying was going on. IU could play Michigan in the upcoming Big Ten tourney, for instance.
“He’s not a Michigan spy,” Crean said with a smile. He looked at Harbaugh, who was in the Assembly Hall media room. “You’re not, are you?”
“Hell, no!” Harbaugh shouted.”
“See,” Crean said, “no worries there.”
There weren’t any worries about the outcome of this game, which wrapped up IU’s non-conference season with a 13-0 mark. It’s the first time the Hoosiers have been unbeaten in non-conference play since the 1989-90 season, when Calbert Cheaney was a freshman.
Cheaney, of course, is now IU’s director of basketball operations.
Yes, that meant something to Crean.
“We had the coaches go around the room and talk about where they were in 1989-90,” Crean said. He, by the way, was a Michigan State assistant coach at the time.
“Everybody got to age themselves a little bit. This being the first time we’ve been undefeated in non-conference play is a big, big deal. It’s something the players can carry with them. It’s huge.
“That was something we wanted to get done tonight.”
So was bouncing back from the Iowa debacle and showing they’d learned a little bit about playing defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
IU pretty much turned North Carolina Central’s offense into jelly, with the exception of forward Dominique Sutton, who scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting and showed why he’ll be playing professionally some where next season.
The Hoosiers also dominated the rebounding, 35-16. It was the fewest rebounds they’d allowed an opponent since Northwestern also had 16 in 2003.
Sheehey had 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting (matching that of Cody Zeller, who finished with 17 points). He grabbed seven rebounds.
As for turnovers, well, IU had 16 of them against 13 assists. This is not good considering North Carolina State is not nearly as good defensively as the teams IU will face the rest of the season.
Jordan Hulls had three turnovers against two assists. Verdell Jones had three turnovers and one assist. Victor Oladipo had three turnovers and two assists.
Considering these are the primary ballhandlers, this HAS to get better. If so, IU has a chance to finish at least 2-1 in these last three games and enter the Big Ten tourney with lots of momentum.
If not, well, there’s no reason to tell you what you already know.