Info for Students » Uncategorized

IU hoping to climb back into the national conversation

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — This town is buzzing, and so is the Indiana University basketball team. That’s the way it is when rival Kentucky comes calling — especially when the Wildcats carry the nation’s No. 1 ranking — and coach Tom Crean wouldn’t have it any other way. “There is going to be a lot of energy in the building,” Crean said of Assembly Hall, which will be filled by more than 17,000 mostly Hoosier fans for the 4:15 p.m. CST tipoff today (ESPN). “This is a very caring group; they care about how they play, they care about each other, and they want to do well. “As long as we’re focused on what we’re trying to do, it’s not like we have some magic words to calm them down. I would want guys excited to play. The key is that we stay true to the game, which is fundamentals, discipline, execution, energy, all those kinds of things.” While it’s not a make-or-break game for either team, a good outcome would go a long way in putting the Hoosiers back in the national conversation. Like UK, IU stands 8-0. But while the Wildcats own wins over Kansas and North Carolina, the Hoosiers’ best have come against Butler and North Carolina State. That’s been enough to receive votes in both the coaches’ and writers’ polls, and a victory no doubt would propel the Hoosiers into the rankings for the first time since Crean restarted the program from scratch following Kelvin Sampson’s final season in 2007-08. Indiana beat Kentucky 70-51 at home that year, but has lost by 18, 17 and 19 the past three seasons. “We’ve come a long way the past couple of years,” said IU junior guard Jordan Hulls. “But even two years ago, we prepared the same way with the same intensity. The atmosphere has been the same every year. “We had a lot of chances but we didn’t execute some things and that led to us losing. But if we do the things that we are capable of doing and have the will to prepare — which is what we have now — I think we will be in good shape.” The marquee matchup will be IU freshman Cody Zeller against UK freshman Anthony Davis, who he previously has faced in AAU tournaments and in practice as teammates in the McDonald All-America game. The 6-foot-11 Zeller leads the Hoosiers in scoring (15.5 per game), rebounding (7.5), steals (21) and blocked shots (13). The 6-10 Davis is third for the Wildcats in scoring (12.3) and leads in rebounding (9.1) and blocked shots (36). He already has the signature moment of this collegiate season, a block that sealed UK’s 73-72 win over North Carolina last Saturday. “He is definitely a great player,” said Zeller. “But I have played against a lot of good players already this year, guys like Andrew Smith (of Butler) and a couple from North Carolina State. I think each game I am just trying to improve, and this will be just another step for that.” The Hoosiers say they’ll have to compete inside (UK has dominated opponents on the boards) and must handle the defensive pressure led by another freshman who is familiar to Zeller, Indianapolis-raised point guard Marquis Teague. “The biggest thing is just doing what we’ve been doing all year, which is move the ball really well,” said Hulls. “We need to let our defense create our offense and not the other way around. They are very long and very active, so we are going to have to take care of the ball and not let them get easy fast-break points.” The Hoosiers definitely will have the crowd behind them. Crean has encouraged all fans to wear red — and pleaded for them to not make a quick buck by selling tickets to those wearing blue. And while IU officials sent home students who began camping outside of Assembly Hall on Tuesday, saying they should be doing their pre-finals studying, it hasn’t deflated the hype. “(The players) are well aware of the vibe of this game and the buzz,” said Crean. “But that’s not what they’re focused on. It doesn’t mean we always play well, but we’ve been really locked in and focused (all season). That’s a huge part of the maturity process, no doubt.”

Comments are closed.