Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Indiana Needs A Decisive Victory Tonight

Victor Oladipo and Derek Elston sang on their way back to Cook Hall after meeting with the media. They had just met with us, the media, and we have that kind of affect on college basketball players.

What were they singing?

We’re not sure. We have to confess we’re not up with the musical tastes of 20-year-old guys, although it wasn’t bad. We can say that Oladipo was better than Elston, although neither was as good as Justin Bieber, not that we’re admitting that we’ve ever actually listened to a Justin Bieber song.

Anyway, we do take it as a sign that the Hoosiers were not beaten down by the Iowa debacle and practice intensity. They seem in good, positive spirits.

What does this mean for tonight’s game against North Carolina Central?

It had better be a decisive victory. Indiana needs to make a home statement that it deserves its top-25 ranking and is ready for the onslaught it faces from now till the end of the season.

But first, a question. What was up with all the turnovers at Iowa. How could the Hoosiers turn into bumblers in such a key game?

“We were indecisive,” Oladipo said. “The ball would slip. We’d think twice about where we were trying to get the ball. It’s just making a good chest pass. A simple bounce pass. Make the simple play.

“We’re playing hard, but we have to be smarter. The coaches are making a big emphasis on that, in film and practice.”

In other words, it’s effort with purpose and thought. The same thing, Elston said, cost IU in rebounding against the Hawkeyes.

“We weren’t very aggressive going to the boards,” he said. “A couple of guys went, but not with the right intensity. We went to go, but not to actually do anything. That’s what I took from the film.

“It’s all about being aggressive at the right time.”

Any lack of aggression at Iowa was not caused by fatigue, Oladipo insisted. He said the Hoosiers were ready for the challenges they face by ending the regular season with a road trip to Minnesota and home games against Michigan State and Purdue.

“There’s no fatigue,” he said. “I’m so used to it now, so used to playing basketball. There have been a lot of games, a lot of practices between games. My body is used to it. It’s not sore like it used to be. It’s cooperating.

“And even if we are tired, everybody is tired. We’re not the only team. We can’t use that as an excuse not to compete every day, not to be hungry every day.”

There also wasn’t any let up after reaching 20 victories, which came last week after a tough-minded win over Northwestern.

“We’re glad we got to 20 wins,” Elston said. “It’s okay we did it, now what can we do past that? How many wins can we get this season?

“The last couple of years we haven’t had anything near to this. To flip the script like we did, to go from 20 losses to 20 wins, is amazing. Now let’s see if we can get another one.”

Tonight that means beating a 14-12 North Carolina Central team that is 0-7 on the non-conference road. Of course, that road includes trips to Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Oregon, the perils of all low-major programs.

That doesn’t mean the Eagles lack talent. In 6-5 forward Dominique Sutton they have a player drawing NBA interest. The former Kansas State standout is averaging 16.3 points and 7.6 rebounds. He’s coming off a 24-point, 11-rebound, six assist effort in a win over rival North Carolina A&T.

“They've got one of the toughest competitors that I think will come through Assembly Hall in Dominique Sutton,” coach Tom Crean said. “I don't know him personally, but I've watched him a long time. He played at Kansas State and I watched him in the summertime. I don't think there's any question why NBA people will be here watching him (tonight).”

The Eagles also have an Oklahoma transfer in 6-6 guard Ray Willis. He averages 15.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. Guard Landon Clement averages 15.9 points.

“They are a very formidable opponent,” Crean said. “They’re dangerous.”

And then, Crean added in so many words, bring it on.

“I’m glad we get a chance to turn right back around and play. That’s the basis for where you want your team and program to be. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or when you’re playing. You just want to be better than you were the last time. That’s our focus.”

Given how bad the Hoosiers were in their last time, that should be hard.

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