Tag Archives: Christian Watford

The rebuilding of Indiana’s women’s basketball program

This news feature was written for my JOUR-H 200 Reporting, Writing and Editing course. I would like to thank IU Coach Curt Miller for being honest about the IU women’s basketball program when I talked to him in January as well as Jeremy Gray and Robby Howard for their insight on the Hoosiers.

Indiana University is rich in basketball tradition and success. Five men’s national championship banners hang from the rafters in Assembly Hall.

However, the Lady Hoosiers have recently experienced some dark years with a 29-60 record over the past three seasons. Indiana hired Curt Miller, who won six Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year awards and advanced to the NCAA Tournament five times at Bowling Green State University, to replace former IU Coach Felisha Legette-Jack, who was fired after the Hoosiers went 6-24 last season.

IU Coach Miller won MAC Coach of the Year six times in his tenure at Bowling Green State University.
IU Coach Miller won MAC Coach of the Year six times in his tenure at Bowling Green State University.

IU Coach Miller said that the Hoosiers are building the program by improving team chemistry, being involved in community service work and competing in the classroom.

“The wins—it’s going to take a couple of years,” Miller said. “It’s not going to be as easy to see the building on the court but we’re doing a lot of things to build the program and not just a team. A lot of that is off the floor that people don’t see.”

While IU Coach Miller is focused on improving the team off the court, he said that the Hoosiers are excited about winning because he said wins are hard to come by for his Indiana squad that is limited offensively.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20th, the Indiana women’s basketball team showed signs of growth when it earned its most significant win in the Curt Miller era. IU defeated No. 22 Purdue 62-61 after senior guard Jasmine McGhee hit the game-winning shot as time expired. It was Indiana’s first win over a ranked opponent since Dec. 5, 2010 and it was a promising result for a program eager to rebuild.

A Fierce Rivalry 

Jeremy Gray, IU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Services, said that the two Big Ten in-state rivals are on the opposite end of the spectrum in college basketball, which made the Hoosiers’ victory even more impressive.

“Purdue is a tournament team and Indiana is absolutely in a rebuilding effort,” Gray said.

He described Assembly Hall as having one of the two largest crowds for an IU women’s basketball game this season.

“There were a lot of students there for that game, they stayed throughout and they were a factor in the end,” Gray said.

Robby Howard, one of the two Indiana Daily Student women’s basketball beat writers, said that IU Athletics, the Crimson Club and the IU Varsity Club did a very good job marketing the game to students.

“They were really trying to attract students to the game and it obviously worked because it was the first time you had an actual student section at the game,” Howard said. “That obviously played a large role when you actually have audible fans and the team was really able to feed off that energy. You could see them making a lot of hustle plays and the crowd would come to its feet—that’s something that hasn’t happened all season long.”

Jeremy Gray said that the teams traded baskets the entire night, the play was at a high level and that the entire game was exciting. The excitement peaked when McGhee’s shot fell through the net as time expired, which prompted pandemonium on the court.

“As soon as the ball went through, literally as the time expired, her teammates charged her and hugged her,” Gray said. “Some of the men’s basketball players came on the floor and gave her big hugs.”

Indiana’s Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Services said that the win was huge for the Lady Hoosiers.

“It made SportsCenter’s top ten plays the following day, it got over 10,000 hits on YouTube and it was one of those games that when the program gets turned around in a couple of years, you can look back on this game as one that helped change everything for Indiana,” Gray said.

IU Coach Miller’s Rebuilding Effort

When asked how he was going to build IU’s women’s basketball program, IU Coach Curt Miller said, “Well a lot of areas, although they are not necessarily going to equate statistically. We believe that you build a championship team in the locker room first.”

He said that he knows statistical success will take a few years to develop but in the mean time, he is trying to change the culture of the program in his first season at IU.

Robby Howard said that Miller has told members of the media all season that Indiana is the worst team in the Big Ten. Despite having limited talent and few scholarship players on his roster, the Hoosiers’ first-year head coach teaches his players to give their best effort every day, whether in games or in practices.

“The big thing with Curt Miller and this program is that he wants his team to play hard and aggressive every single night,” Howard said. “It’s just tough to do when you only have seven scholarship players and eight players who are playing on the roster. It’s tough to play physical in that nature when you just don’t have a lot of bodies on the court.”

Howard cited the transfer of former Hoosier Quaneisha McCurty as an example of Miller making tangible changes on the culture of the program, especially with an emphasis on effort.

“It was simply due to the fact that she wasn’t playing hard in practice,” Howard said. “Miller’s whole philosophy is if you don’t play hard in practice, then you don’t play [in games].”

A Blueprint Right Across the Hall

Indiana’s women’s basketball team isn’t the only program that plays in Assembly Hall that has recently undergone a rebuilding process.

According to an Indiana Daily Student article from May 2008 that was written by Chris Engel, former IU Men’s Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson’s impermissible phone calls caused the NCAA to put the program on probation.

ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote an article recapping the sanctions against Indiana in November 2008. Katz wrote that Indiana was placed on a three-year probation, the men’s program lost scholarships and that the coaching staff was severely limited in its access to high school players.

As a result of the penalties, IU’s men’s basketball team went 28-66 in IU Coach Tom Crean’s first three seasons. It took Crean three seasons to achieve his first win against a ranked opponent as well as to eclipse 10 wins in a single season.

While IU Coach Miller took over a Hoosier basketball program under different conditions, the Hoosiers’ win against Purdue allowed him to accomplish both of those achievements in his first season at the helm of Indiana’s women’s basketball team.

Robby Howard said that entering the season, a lot of comparisons were being made between IU Coach Crean’s revival of IU’s men’s basketball program and the rebuilding process that IU Coach Miller embarked on when he became the new women’s basketball coach at Indiana University.

Miller said before the season that the blueprint for the women’s program was right across the hall in the men’s program, which has been ranked No. 1 in the country for the majority of the season.

The most iconic element of IU Coach Crean’s rebuilding of IU basketball was the Hoosiers’ 72-71 victory over No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall last season, which was completed by then-junior Christian Watford’s last-second three-pointer.

The Lady Hoosiers followed in a similar suit this season with a buzzer beater of their own, also against a major rival, when Jasmine McGhee’s 18-foot jump shot connected at the buzzer on Feb. 20th.

“Obviously the Indiana men’s team is a lot better than the women’s team but the analogy holds up in that it was a moment that got a lot of notoriety,” Jeremy Gray said as he discussed the comparison between the rebuilding processes of IU’s men’s and women’s basketball programs. “It showed that Indiana can compete in the Big Ten against high quality teams and player for player, Indiana was out-manned in that game. They found a way to get that done and I think that speaks to coaching.”

The Hoosier players have been the ones competing on the court but it has been the relentless preparation and determination of IU Coach Miller that has willed Indiana to two Big Ten victories in a season in which he told the media that “prognosticators said that Indiana wouldn’t even win a game [in the Big Ten] this year.”

Jeremy Gray and Robby Howard agree that IU Coach Miller needs to bring in great recruiting classes in order to elevate Indiana to the top of the Big Ten. Miller may have found his Cody Zeller—his All-American player around whom he can develop a championship program—in 2014 commit Tyra Buss, who Howard said was leading the country in scoring average per game earlier this season at roughly 38 points per contest.

“He knows what he has to do and now that he has a name like Indiana behind him, I think he’s just going to do phenomenal things,” Howard said.

IU Coach Miller is ready to turn the women’s program around because there is no job in the country that he would rather have.

At Hoosier Hysteria on Oct. 20th, 2012, in front of 17,472 excited Hoosier fans, IU Coach Miller said, “This is my dream job and I’m living my dream now.”

With his passion for Indiana University and his positive attitude about rebuilding the IU women’s basketball program, Curt Miller may just be the right coach to bring Indiana’s first women’s national championship banner to Assembly Hall.

The guidelines to storming the court in college basketball

Fans rushing the court after a victory in college basketball can be the ultimate sports experience for a 20-something college student but also a slap in the face to programs that wish to be taken seriously. In the midst of conference play, there seems to be a few court stormings every week, which leads to the question: How many of those games will go down in the history as one of the biggest wins in program history? Rushing the court should occur after games that kids will ask their grandparents about years later and ones that are significant enough that ESPN plays highlights of the wins over and over again.

Certain victories are signature wins for a program’s history that are deserving of hundreds of screaming fans to rush the court as the final buzzer sounds. However, too many fans are too eager to try to use a run-of-the-mill victory as an excuse to flood the court with students.

Examples of acceptable court stormings are unranked Indiana defeating No. 1 Kentucky 73-72 on Christian Watford’s last second three pointer last season and unranked TCU getting its first Big 12 victory against No. 5 Kansas 62-55 earlier this month. Indiana had won 28 games in the previous three seasons. TCU was 0-8 in the Big 12 and the Horned Frogs have only had two winning seasons since 2001.

Indiana fans stormed the court at Assembly Hall after Christian Watford's game-winning three-pointer gave IU a 73-72 victory over No. 1 Kentucky. (Image courtesy of http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/tag/_/name/tom-crean)
Indiana fans stormed the court at Assembly Hall after Christian Watford’s game-winning three-pointer gave IU a 73-72 victory over No. 1 Kentucky. (Image courtesy of http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/tag/_/name/tom-crean)

Good teams should not have fans that rush the court because winning should be expected. Fans shouldn’t be surprised when their team wins if their team is any good, which might be the biggest mistake fans make when they rush the court.

Here are my guidelines for storming the court in college basketball:

  • The game must be at home for the fans that storm the court
  • If both teams are ranked, the winning team must be ranked at least 15 spots higher
  • An unranked team defeats a team ranked in the top 15
  • A top 5 team loses for the first time of the season
  • There is a game-winning shot against a team who is ranked at least 10 spots lower
  • Ignore all of the rules above after 3 overtimes. The fans have made an emotional and time investment so they are free to do as they wish. However, the winning team cannot be ranked lower than the losing team

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

Video Highlights: No. 7 Indiana defeats Penn State 72-49

No. 7 Indiana defeats Penn State 72-49 despite Cody Zeller not scoring a basket for the first time in his career at Indiana.

The No. 7 Indiana Hoosiers hosted the Penn State Nittany Lions at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, January 23, 2013.
The No. 7 Indiana Hoosiers hosted the Penn State Nittany Lions at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, January 23, 2013.

Video Highlights: Wisconsin upsets No. 2 Indiana

The Badgers hold the Hoosiers to a season-low 59 points and win their eleventh consecutive game against Indiana.

Mike Bruesewitz came up big down the stretch for Wisconsin by making four free throws in the final minutes of the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.usnews.com/news/sports/articles/2013/01/16/badgers-hold-off-no-2-indiana-for-64-59-upset-2)
Mike Bruesewitz came up big down the stretch for Wisconsin by making four free throws in the final minutes of the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.usnews.com/news/sports/articles/2013/01/16/badgers-hold-off-no-2-indiana-for-64-59-upset-2)

Wisconsin upsets No. 2 Indiana, continues undefeated streak against Crean

Now is not a good time to be a top ranked team in college basketball. In the span of six days, four teams ranked in the top three lost to lower ranked or unranked opponents. Last week, Oregon upset No. 3 Arizona, No. 20 North Carolina State knocked off No. 1 Duke and No. 15 Ohio State was victorious against No. 2 Michigan. With the three losses the No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers moved up three spots to No. 2 but lost to Wisconsin at home 64-59 on Tuesday.

The Badgers were a nightmare matchup for the Hoosiers. Wisconsin prides itself on slowing down the pace of the game and playing tough defense, which go against Indiana’s play style of scoring in transition and racking up over eighty points per game on average.

The first half was different from Indiana’s other home games this season. The Hoosiers typically have no problem scoring at home and distancing themselves from their opponents–even good teams like Minnesota and North Carolina. A combination of easy baskets in transition, effective three-point shooters and multiple scoring options gives Indiana breathing room at halftime. IU was winning by nine points after the first half against North Carolina, 23 points against Minnesota and the rest of their non-conference home games were similar scenarios. However, against the Badgers, Indiana was only leading by one after the first half.

Outside of Cody Zeller’s first half, no Hoosier player had a good performance offensively. Zeller had 18 points on 8-8 shooting against Wisconsin senior center Jared Berggren. In the second half, the sophomore center scored only five points and made just one of his seven shot attempts. Other than Zeller and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who made the one shot that he took and contributed the only two bench points of the night, no Indiana player shot above 43 percent. The other four starters, senior Christian Watford, junior Victor Oladipo, senior Jordan Hulls and freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, were a combined 10-31. Junior Will Sheehey, sophomore Remy Abell and freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea were 0-7 from the field. Indiana’s shooting woes were the result of tight defense from Wisconsin and a team-wide epidemic of a bad shooting night. The quality of a team’s warmups may not have a direct correlation to how the players will perform but I noticed that few shots were falling in the pre-game shooting drills, which may have carried over to the actual games.

The lack of outside shooting options for the Hoosiers made it especially difficult for Indiana when one of its players was able to penetrate into the lane. On two occasions, Jordan Hulls drove to the basket, jumped and looked for an outlet pass but he could not find any open teammates and turned the ball over both times.

While the Badgers connected on less than one-third of their three-point attempts, the ones that they made came at critical points in the game, either to take the lead from Indiana or begin to pull away from the Hoosiers. One of their largest leads of the game came with 12:13 remaining in the second half when Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run that included a pair of three-pointers from freshman Sam Dekker and senior Mike Bruesewitz.

Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.
Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.

Victor Oladipo scored the first three points of the game after halftime to extend Indiana’s lead but the Hoosiers failed to play with the urgency that they needed against a tough opponent. Indiana’s zone defense left gaping holes for Wisconsin to exploit and by the time that IU Coach Tom Crean called for full-court pressure, it was too late for the No. 2 team in the country. Wisconsin made six free throws in the final 71 seconds and the Badgers held off Indiana to complete the upset at Assembly Hall.

_____________________

Game Notes

It is irresponsible to declare under most circumstances that the officials decided the game based on their calls. Many Hoosier fans are up in arms over several calls against Indiana.

Were most of the calls justified?

Yes.

Were a couple of the calls absolutely outrageous?

Yes.

The referees did not decide the game but some of the calls certainly made it more difficult for Indiana to surmount Wisconsin in a late comeback. The worst of the calls occurred with 1:11 remaining after Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell made the second free throw after being fouled to bring Indiana within four of Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz tried to set a screen on Victor Oladipo, held him and the two were tangled up as Oladipo tried to get past him. A foul was called on Oladipo, Brusewitz made a free throw to extend Wisconsin’s lead and Indiana lost seven ticks on the clock when there wasn’t much time to spare.

_____________________

The past eight winners of the Big Ten have lost only seven home games, which suggests that Indiana may be out of luck to win the conference. The Hoosiers still have to face Michigan (x2), Michigan State (x2), Ohio State (x2), Minnesota and Illinois.

_____________________

While Will Sheehey and Remy Abell have received national recognition as potentially being the best sixth and seventh men in the country, respectively, the pair has combined for only one point on 0-12 shooting in the past two games. Indiana needs them to step up, especially on offense, if the Hoosiers want to win the Big Ten and battle for a No. 1 seed in March.

However, it is not just Sheehey and Abell who make Indiana’s bench a liability. Jeremy Hollowell has only scored six points in the four games since he sat out during an NCAA investigation. Junior Maurice Creek hasn’t played since the Dec. 15 game against Butler due to an injury and senior Derek Elston has not played in the past three games. Freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea is not yet a scoring option on offense and only plays when Zeller needs a quick breather. Freshman Peter Jurkin has only played in three games after serving a nine-game suspension and has yet to play for more than four minutes in a game.

Currently, Indiana is only seven players deep. Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell will play minor minutes but IU Coach Crean will need to develop the talent on his bench for Indiana to play to its potential in the remainder of the Big Ten schedule and the NCAA Tournament.

_____________________

Indiana has lost 11 consecutive games against Wisconsin and Tom Crean is still searching for his first win against the Badgers as head coach of Indiana.

Video Highlights: No. 5 Indiana defeats No. 8 Minnesota

The No. 5 Hoosiers took a 52-29 lead in the first half and nearly gave it up to No. 8 Minnesota.

Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller dunks against Minnesota in the first half. Zeller had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the IU win.
Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller dunks against Minnesota in the first half. Zeller had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the IU win.

Indiana escapes Iowa City with a win

No. 5 Indiana traveled to Iowa City, Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes on Monday, December 31st. It was a day that represented a quickly approaching new calendar year with endless possibilities for most of the world but for college basketball fans, it was exciting for a completely different reason—the start of conference play.

It marked the third time in the past five years that the Hoosiers kicked off their Big Ten schedule with a game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. For Indiana, the matchup against Iowa, who was picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten by numerous analysts in preseason conference rankings, was much more important than it appeared on paper. IU Coach Tom Crean and the Hoosiers had not played on the road in their non-conference schedule, which was filled with games against teams that Indiana beat by at least 25 points. While Iowa is not a perennial power in college basketball, the Hawkeyes have figured out how to beat Indiana in the past decade. Since the 2003-04 season, Indiana was just 5-11 against Iowa. 13 of the last 16 Hoosier teams to go to Iowa City have returned to Bloomington, Ind. without a win, including the past four.

The sellout crowd “blacked out” Carver-Hawkeye Arena and was deafening for forty minutes of basketball. The game was likely the biggest home game of the year for Iowa not only because it was the Big Ten opener but also it was against the highest ranked opponent on the Hawkeyes’ schedule.

For Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes, the matchup was an opportunity to play the preseason Big Ten favorite to win the conference as well as to show the team what they should aspire to be one or two years in the future. While Indiana’s starting five has youth in freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell and sophomore center Cody Zeller, Iowa’s initial lineup was even younger. Iowa Coach McCaffery started freshman point guard Mike Gesell, freshman shooting guard Anthony Clemmons, junior forward Roy Devyn Marble, sophomore forward Aaron White and freshman center Adam Woodbury.

In the first six minutes, Iowa struggled rotating the ball and started the game one for six from the field in addition to missing three free throws in the opening minutes. It may have been the nerves of Iowa’s young players in their biggest game of the season or Indiana’s stifling man-to-man defense but the Hawkeyes did not have a shot attempt fall through the rim until Mike Gesell sank a jumper with 13:54 to play in the first half. Before that basket, the Hawkeyes’ only points were from two pairs of free throws made by Marble and a bad goaltending call against Cody Zeller that credited Gesell with two points on a layup.

While senior forward Christian Watford gave the Hoosiers an early lead by knocking down a three-pointer on the wing followed by a pair of free throws, Indiana also had shooting woes early in the game. The fifth ranked team in the country was just 4-19 to start the game and had five turnovers during that span.

Indiana junior Victor Oladipo showed his value as the team’s best defender after Aaron White scored six straight points—a three-pointer, layup, and a free throw—to give Iowa a 16-11 lead. Oladipo shut down White and the Iowa sophomore went scoreless for seven minutes.

Indiana went in to halftime with some momentum as Yogi Ferrell drove to the basket and scored in the lane on consecutive possessions in the span of 20 seconds to give the Hoosiers a 33-25 lead. Roy Devyn Marble had the ball for Iowa on the final possession of the half but Oladipo knocked the ball loose and thwarted any Hawkeye attempt of scoring on a set play.

Preseason National Player of the Year, Cody Zeller, had a shaky first half with just four points, three turnovers and two fouls but he started the second half with a new energy that ignited the Hoosiers on offense. Zeller scored the first seven points of the half for Indiana and also drew two fouls on Iowa center Adam Woodbury in the first three minutes, which led to the 7’1” freshman fouling out in the final minute of the game.

Cody Zeller scored 15 second half points in Indiana's 69-65 win at Iowa. (Image courtesy of http://collegebasketball.ap.org/times-online/slideshow/indiana-iowa-12312012)
Cody Zeller scored 15 second half points in Indiana’s 69-65 win at Iowa. (Image courtesy of http://collegebasketball.ap.org/times-online/slideshow/indiana-iowa-12312012)

However, Zeller cooled off and went scoreless for 12 minutes and Iowa fought back to be within one point of Indiana after Zach McCabe made a jumper. With five minutes remaining in the game, the Hoosiers went on a Cody Zeller-led 6-0 scoring run until a flop by Roy Devyn Marble turned the momentum in the Hawkeyes’ favor. Marble shot a three-pointer and dramatically fell to the ground. From the referee’s point of view, it appeared that Victor Oladipo struck Marble across the face but in fact, Oladipo never touched the shooter. Marble made two of his three free throws and cut Indiana’s lead to three points.

In the final minutes of the game, Iowa had no choice but to foul and hope that Indiana missed its foul shots. Oladipo made a pair, followed by Will Sheehey and Christian Watford each sinking one in their trips to the line and the Hoosiers escaped Iowa City with a narrow victory and a perfect record in conference play to start the season.

_____________________________

While Indiana’s play wasn’t always pretty, a road win in arguably the toughest basketball conference in the country is something with which Coach Crean and the Hoosiers can be pleased. Iowa’s fans made it an incredibly tough environment for Indiana. When Will Sheehey was shooting a pair of free throws in the last minute of the game, the arena was echoing with a loud “Sheehey sucks” chant. Indiana was not tested in this way in its non-conference schedule and the team passed its first test of this kind.

With sophomore Austin Etherington out for the season and junior Maurice Creek out indefinitely, IU Coach Crean’s rotation is beginning to take shape. Ten players saw the court against Iowa but only seven played significant minutes. Will Sheehey will always be the first player off the bench as one of the best sixth men in the country. Remy Abell commands the backup point guard role, which leaves Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Jeremy Hollowell, and Derek Elston to claim the remaining minutes.

At times, the game against Iowa looked to be too big for Jeremy Hollowell. Soon after entering the game, he had a horrible airball, which was followed by Anthony Clemmons embarrassing him on a crossover dribble that led to an easy layup for the Hawkeyes. Later on offense, Yogi Ferrell fed Hollowell with a bounce pass as he streaked to the basket for what would have been a posterizing dunk, but Hollowell couldn’t control the ball and knocked it out of bounds. However, he may have been rusty from missing the previous three games due to a self-reported potential violation that the NCAA dealt with and allowed him to return to the court.

Jeremy Hollowell wasn’t the only one who didn’t play his best on Monday. Senior Jordan Hulls may have had the worst game of his basketball career. He entered the game shooting 55% from three-point range but was 0-10 from the field and 0-4 from behind the arc. The most unsettling part was that he had open looks that he normally makes. Every player has bad shootings days but none of his go-to deep threes or floaters in the lane fell against Iowa. However, it should be reassuring to the Hoosiers that they won despite his poor shooting performance, when statistically, he would scored 12 points based on his season average shooting percentages.

Indiana will have a week off as the Hoosiers prepare for a road game at Penn State at 7:00 pm on Monday, January 7th. None of the four teams ahead of Indiana in the rankings played a ranked opponent this week, which means that upsets are unlikely and the Hoosiers will probably remain fifth in the country.

Reflecting on Butler’s Upset of No. 1 Indiana

Saturday’s matchup between No. 1 Indiana and Butler was supposed to be about the 9-0 Hoosiers adding freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea to their lineup after they served their nine game suspensions. In pre-game warmups, senior forward Derek Elston participated in drills with the rest of the players, indicating that he might take the court sooner than expected after he suffered a torn meniscus at Hoosier Hysteria. However, Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs had other intentions for Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

Butler entered the game 8-2 with its only losses coming to Xavier on the road and an Illinois squad that’s now ranked tenth in the country. While the Bulldogs were not ranked entering the Boston Scientific Close the Gap Crossroads Classic, their 88-86 victory over Indiana was not their first step into the national spotlight. Butler was the national runner up in both 2010 and 2011. In the Maui Invitational in mid-November, Butler beat then-No. 9 North Carolina 82-71 and led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Butler never let IU lead by more than seven points, which is dangerous for any team playing the Bulldogs. Butler is the little engine that could and if they hang around long enough in a close game, the Bulldogs can beat any team in the country, as proven by their play over the past four seasons.

Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin, and Elston did not impact the game at all. Jurkin and Elston were on the bench for the entire contest and Mosquera-Perea only played three minutes, scored two points, and grabbed one rebound.

Butler deserved to win because they outplayed Indiana over the course of 45 minutes. While Cody Zeller’s stat line of 18 points and five rebounds does not reflect it, the preseason national player of the year was dominated by Butler center Andrew Smith. Roosevelt Jones posted a double-double for Butler with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Khyle Marshall, Rotnei Clarke, and Erik Fromm also scored in double figures for the Bulldogs.

Clarke was 5-11 from behind the arc, including a three-pointer with 1:40 left in overtime to bring Butler within one point of Indiana. While IU junior Victor Oladipo held Clarke in check for most of the game, fellow Hoosier Will Sheehey could not. Whenever Indiana was on the move looking to make a run, the senior transfer from Arkansas made a big shot. When the Hoosiers maintained a lead for the first time in the first half, Clarke hit a three to steal the lead right back. When IU was winning by five in the final minutes of the first half, he was there again to cut the deficit to two points.

While the Bulldogs made only four percent more of their three-point shots, Butler made 11 to Indiana’s five. Even though Jordan Hulls had 11 shot attempts, he uncharacteristically did not make a three-point basket.

Indiana may have lost the game at the free throw line. The Hoosiers were 27-38 from the charity stripe and just a few more points from made free throws could have changed the outcome of the game.

Once again, Christian Watford was nowhere to be found. He was 1-5 shooting and only grabbed three rebounds. It is no surprise that he has fallen out of 2013 NBA Mock Drafts. He is incredibly inconsistent and has yet to take over a game against a major opponent.

Indiana appeared to be in good position to win the game when the Hoosiers forced some of Butler’s best players into foul trouble. Roosevelt Jones was called for his fourth foul with 15:11 remaining in the second half and Andrew Smith received his fourth with 10:24 to play. However, both players managed to stay at four fouls until two minutes left in the game. Indiana was in the double bonus and had Butler on its last legs but failed to pound the ball into the paint and draw fouls on the Bulldogs.

On paper, Indiana had the advantage in overtime with all five of the team’s starters on the court and two of Butler’s frontcourt players fouled out of the game. Defensive lapses and consecutive three-pointers forced the Hoosiers on their heels. A layup by Alex Barlow with five seconds remaining in OT proved to be the game-winner as Jordan Hulls’ last second three fell short of the basket.

Only eight men’s college basketball teams have gone undefeated since 1939 and no team has since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. There is not a school, even the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers, that is expected to go undefeated. Losses, especially those in road environments such as the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which was filled with Butler and Purdue fans, are chances for growth. Butler is well-deserving of a top 25 ranking and Indiana is unlikely to fall outside of the top five. Teams are still in the non-conference portions of their schedules, which means that there are still several months remaining until the time of the year when wins and losses define a team.

All of that being said, the first year of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic was a great success. There was high-quality basketball in both the Indiana-Butler and Notre Dame-Purdue matchups. Indiana, Notre Dame, and Butler are all nationally relevant teams and this annual event will hopefully continue to bring lots of competition and pride to Indiana basketball for years to come.