Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ready To Roll – IU Sets Sight on Illinois and Beyond

What was Remy Abell thinking?

Seriously. The rivalry game with Purdue was on the line and here’s a seldom-used freshman who had taken one three-point shot (and missed!) in the last six games. Why would he even think about shooting from that far out?

The answer is that, sometimes, it pays to be young and fearless. Let the old worry about consequences and ramifications.

So with 1:27 left and IU clinging to a six-point lead that could disappear almost as fast as you can say, “Nebraska,” Abell shot and hit.

The Boilers never recovered.

For the record, Abell is 4-for-6 on three-pointers in Big Ten play, and 6-for-13 for the season.

So what was he thinking at that moment?

Basically, that he was wide open, that Christian Watford had made a nice pass to get him the ball in position to shoot, and that, well, this was what all the extra shooting work these last few months was for.

“I’ve been working hard in practice, and it paid off,” he said. “It showed a little bit (Saturday night).”

Because it did, because teammate Victor Oladipo played like he was back into non-conference action, because the Hoosiers blasted away all their end-of-game road demons that contributed to a 2-5 slide, they are 6-6 in the Big Ten, 18-6 overall and feeling awfully good about themselves again.

“This is great,” Abell said. “We needed this win. We’ve got some home games left. Thw was a great start coming off the losses we’ve had. We have to be ready to keep it rolling.”

IU had plenty of stars in this win. Victor Oladipo had a career-high 23 points. Cody Zeller had 16 points and eight rebounds. Will Sheehey came off the bench for seven points, seven rebounds, one assist and three blocks in 22 minutes.

And if you like depth, the Hoosiers had eight players with at least two rebounds.

Crean has preached and preached and preached about toughness. It paid off against Purdue in rebounds. The Hoosiers had 53 of them, the most since they had 53 against Penn State in 2001.

“Our guys were committed to the glass,” Crean said. “That was not for the fainthearted inside the lane. It never is when you play Purdue. Our guys were committed to being in position to rebound and, for the most part, we got better in our blockouts. No question that’s a big part of the win.”

IU got so many rebounds in part because Purdue missed 50 -- yes, FIFTY -- shots. It’s hard to miss that many, especially because a lot were wide open ones. IU’s defense was good, but the Boilers also deserve a lot of credit for those misses.

As Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “I don’t mind missing open shots even though you shouldn’t miss open shots. You’re on scholarship. Especially at home, you should consistently knock down open shots. But when you have layups and you just blow them, when you shoot over the goal when you’re right at the rim, you have to make those. You have to step up and play.”

The No. 20 Hoosiers stepped up in Mackey Arena. Now, with five of their last seven games at home, and with the other two against conference bottom-feeders Minnesota and Iowa, they have a chance for a strong finish to solidify a solid NCAA tourney seed and, perhaps, a strong postseason run.

Yeah, this is an all-things-are-possible moment. It's amazing what beating Purdue at Mackey Arena for the first time since 2006 can do.

But that is for later. For now there’s just one over-riding concern in the next few days:

Beat Illinois.


Because that’s who the Hoosiers play Thursday night.

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