Hoosiers In The NBA: Goals For The Last Third Of The Season

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


Believe it or not, only one of the NBA’s 30 teams (Golden State Warriors) officially know what they will be doing when regular season ends. The other 29 have yet to either punch their ticket to the playoffs or punch their ticket to the draft lottery. Granted, the fates of some teams are forgone conclusions that have yet to become official (such as San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland in the playoffs and Philadelphia, Phoenix, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the lottery), but the vast majority could realistically go either way. That group includes the four teams that have former Hoosiers on their rosters.

Even though all four could possibly make the playoffs, none of them are championship contenders and thus will look to make changes this offseason. This week I’m going to go over what each Hoosier needs to accomplish between now and the end of the season to assure they will remain a contributor for their current team going into next season.

 

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Washington (L 109-89): DNP – injury

Vs Oklahoma City (W 123-119): DNP – injury

Vs Minnesota (L 112-110): 31 points (9-17 FG)(9-10 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

Of all four former Hoosiers, this last third of the season directly affects Eric Gordon more than anyone else because he will be a free agent at the end of this season. Despite the fact that he will only be 28 years old, the 2016-2017 season will be his ninth in the NBA and during his career he has missed roughly one-third of those games due to injury (Gordon has missed 202 of 616 possible games as of this weekend). With Gordon’s injury history and the fact that the New Orleans Pelicans will have just completed one of the most injury-plagued seasons a NBA team has had in history, Gordon will have a lot of work to prove he deserves another contract with the Pelicans.

The first thing Gordon can do is stay healthy for the rest of the season. I know that sounds obvious but considering that both players who replaced him at shooting guard ended up suffering major injuries, staying healthy would be a nice change of pace for the team. The other thing Gordon must do is raise his three-point shooting above 40% before the end of the season. Gordon seemingly had made the transition to a three-point specialist last season when he hit a career-high 44.8% from deep. While he has been successful from deep this season (37.8%), it is still a far cry from last year’s success. It raises the question on whether or not last year was a fluke considering it’s the only time in his career he has shot over 40%. If Gordon can at least get his shooting percentage near 40% (>39.5%), it will make him a more valuable free agent (there are very few three-point shooters who can consistently hit above 40% with only 20 currently doing it this season) that would require a multi-year contract from either the Pelicans or any other team that might find interest.

 

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Philadelphia (W 124-115): 22 points (6-12 FG)(9-9 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers, 41 minutes.

Vs Golden State (L 130-114): 14 points (5-16 FG)(2-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 personal fouls, 30 minutes.

@ New York (L 108-95): 16 points (6-14 FG)(2-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 35 minutes.

Vs Philadelphia (W 130-116): 28 points (9-17 FG)(8-9 FT), rebound, 3 assists, 4 steals, 3 personal fouls, 44 minutes.

As I pointed out last week, part of the reason the Orlando Magic specifically made those trade deadline moves was to create extra cap space for this upcoming free agent class where the Magic hope to buy a superstar. That means Victor Oladipo only has a month and a half to either prove he can be the superstar the Magic desperately want, or prove to the Magic that he’s essential for the Magic to be championship contenders.

The idea of Oladipo becoming a superstar player was unrealistic to begin with and has only been backed up with Oladipo’s good but not great body of work. That doesn’t mean he can’t still develop into the second-best or the third-best player on a championship team but he needs to prove that’s possible. The first step towards doing that is showing that he’s the best player on this current team, one that management already thinks is devoid of stars. He can also prove his value to the team by just being one of the main reasons the Magic sneak into the playoffs this season.

The reason why it’s so important that Oladipo needs to prove he’s an important piece to the Magic’s championship blueprint is because the Magic will likely have to make additional moves after acquiring their star player which will likely involve trading away one of their younger players. Oladipo’s goal should be to make management not even consider getting rid of him when that move eventually happens.

 

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

Vs Brooklyn (W 112-104): 4 points (2-5 FG), 3 rebounds, personal foul, 13 minutes.

Vs Houston (L 119-105): 2 points (1-3 FG), 2 rebounds, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 13 minutes.

@ Chicago (W 103-95): 5 points (2-4 FG)(0-1 FT), 3 rebounds, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 18 minutes.

One of the main reasons the Portland Trail Blazers traded for Noah Vonleh was that management thought the team would be going through a rebuilding phase and thus would have had the time to oversee Vonleh’s development. Yet in the end the Blazers merely reloaded as they now find themselves tied for sixth in the western conference with a month and a half to go.  The reason the team has rebounded so much is because young players like C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe have taken huge steps forward this season with McCollum proving to be 20+ scorer and Crabbe proving to be a great sixth man. While Vonleh has also improved from last season, the level of improvement is nowhere near McCollum and Crabbe’s level.

To ask Vonleh to make a jump similar to those two players would be asking too much of a player that is still very raw. However, aside from attempting more three-pointers recently (he’s attempted at least one three-pointer in 13 of his last 15 games, making 33.3% of those attempts), not much has changed since he was inserted into the starting lineup in December. With Portland ready to contend in the playoffs right now, Vonleh needs to show some sign of improvement for Portland to keep him this offseason  instead of trading him away for someone who can help the team in the present.  Even if it’s only 8 points and 7 rebounds a game, he needs to show some form of progress so management knows that it isn’t wasting its time.

 

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ Cleveland (L 114-103): 7 points (3-6 FG)(1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 23 minutes.

@ Indiana (W 96-95): 14 points (5-5 FG)(4-7 FT), 5 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 27 minutes.

@ Atlanta (L 87-76): 6 points (1-4 FG)(4-6 FT), 7 rebounds, steal, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 23 minutes.

As I have mentioned several times in past articles, the Charlotte Hornets frontcourt is so crowded that the team will need to make some kind of move to free up playing time. The easiest and most likely move would be not re-signing Al Jefferson in the offseason. That would directly benefit Cody Zeller the most as they are currently splitting time at center. While Zeller is the one who gets to start, both guys are still playing around the same amount of minutes. In the five games since he returned from injury, Jefferson has played 22.4 minutes per game while Zeller has played 25.2 minutes per game during that stretch.

However, unlike his fellow former Hoosiers, Zeller’s goal is to not let things change. Sure it would be great for Zeller to play so well that he’s averaging 30 minutes a game, but realistically all he needs to do is prevent Jefferson from playing more minutes than him. That means staying out of foul trouble, playing his usual great defense, and continuing to improve his field goal percentage. Zeller has made a lot of strides towards becoming the Hornets’ franchise center this season and now he just needs to make sure there are no setbacks.

 


Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 15.3ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.7apg, 1.00spg, 0.29bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.3% FG, 37.8% 3FG, 88.6% FT, 33.5mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 14.9ppg, 4.8rpg, 4.0apg, 1.46spg, 0.56bpg, 2.1tpg, 2.3fpg, 41.4% FG, 34.1% 3FG, 82.5% FT, 32.1mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 3.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 0.4apg, 0.41spg, 0.29bpg, 0.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 42.4% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 80.0% FT, 16.0mpg.

Cody Zeller: 9.1ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.9apg, 0.80spg, 0.66bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.9fpg, 50.8% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 73.3% FT, 24.9mpg.

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Three Reasons The Hoosiers Are On The Brink Of Winning The Big Ten

The Indiana Hoosiers took care of business on Thursday as they easily defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 74-47 thanks to a dominant second half performance. With the win, the Hoosiers now sit at 13-3 in Big Ten play and are closing in on their second conference championship in four years.

Yet how did a team left for dead at the beginning of December turn things around so drastically?

Here are three reasons the Hoosiers are one win away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title and two wins away from winning the conference outright:

  1. Depth: Very few college basketball teams have nine players  who can contribute on a nightly basis and the Hoosiers take full advantage. Combining their breakneck pace with their ability to rotate players in and out keeps their players relatively fresh enough to make a game-ending run when the opponent becomes gassed. It has also helped the team weather what could have been a season-ending injury when James Blackmon Jr. went down right before Big Ten play began. Instead, freshmen OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan have grown up quickly and have provided superior defense along with adequate offense.
  2. Schedule: Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: the Hoosiers had a very easy early Big Ten schedule. This was even more important for the Hoosiers as it coincided with their period of trying to adapt their rotation after the loss of Blackmon. Looking back at a couple of those games it’s almost shameful to think that the Hoosier only beat awful Rutgers by 7 points. But those early games against lesser competition let the Hoosiers make a successful transition while not hurting their record. At the end of the day, you can’t control who you face in your conference and the Hoosiers took advantage of things breaking right for them.
  3. Yogi Ferrell: The senior point guard has been great throughout his entire career at Indiana but this year he has taken it to another level. In Big Ten games this season, Ferrell is averaging 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. On top of that, his defense has reached a level he’s never played at before and it has resulted in 1.31 steals per game in conference play for a player who has never averaged over one steal at any point in his college career. But what’s been the most impressive is his leadership. I only mentioned Big Ten games because those are the games he’s played with Blackmon out of the lineup, showing that Ferrell has stepped up in his absence. Ferrell reinforced the notion that he can carry the Hoosiers when the team needs it by posting 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists against Illinois in a game Indiana was without Rob Johnson and saw Troy Williams play limited minutes due to an injury. In the second half alone, after trailing the Illini 28-27 at half, Ferrell had as many points in the second half (19) as the whole Illinois team. He may not win Big Ten Player of the Year, but Ferrell has arguably been the most valuable player in the conference and is starting to climb the list of greatest Hoosiers of all time.

Hoosiers In The NBA: How The Trade Deadline Affected Former Hoosiers

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Tons of rumors pop up around the NBA trade deadline with most of them just being hypotheticals that teams make public for the sole purpose of gauging fan reaction. Even though most fans know this, there’s always the slight possibility that there may be truth in those rumors so fans continue to react anyway.

A couple of former Hoosiers found their names connected to multiple trade rumors last week, and while none of them switched teams they did get new teammates because their team ended up trading someone else. This week I’m going to go over how those trades will affect these former Hoosiers for the rest of the season as well as whether or not it was for the best that they didn’t get traded.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Atlanta (W 117-110): 9 points (3-12 FG)(2-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 8 assists, steal, block, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 30 minutes.

Vs San Antonio (L 98-96): 14 points (6-14 FG), 3 rebounds, assist, 2 steals, 4 turnovers, personal foul, 40 minutes.

Vs Dallas (W 110-104): 17 points (6-18 FG)(2-2 FT), 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 42 minutes.

Vs Indiana (L 105-102): 17 points (6-17 FG)(5-8 FT), 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 41 minutes.

Trade Deadline Moves: Acquired Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova from the Detroit Pistons while giving up Tobias Harris; Acquired Jared Cunningham from the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 2nd round pick from the Portland Trail Blazers while giving up Channing Frye to the Cavaliers

The Orlando Magic desperately want a franchise player and were hoping to grab one at the trade deadline. To pull that off would mean the Magic would have to part with some of their young talent. Well they did end up trading Tobias Harris but in return Orlando received Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova.

While neither are the franchise player the Magic are looking for, they do play an important role in getting one. Jennings is an expiring contract who will create 8.5 million dollars in cap room for next summer’s free agent market, where multiple franchise players expect to test free agency. Ilyasova makes for a nice veteran role player and is basically a younger Channing Frye. His acquisition made more sense when the Magic later dealt Frye to Cleveland.

Jennings works really well with Victor Oladipo. Because Jennings is a much better shooter than Elfrid Payton, Oladipo isn’t forced to continuously shoot jump shots to create space in the offense. He can also play more of a facilitator role, as shown by his 11 assists in his first two games with Jennings.

Should He Have Been Traded?

Of all the former Hoosiers, it really felt like Oladipo was the most likely to get dealt while simultaneously being the one I least wanted to be traded. While it would have been cool to see him play for a contender (for example, the Los Angeles Clippers after a Blake Griffin trade), Oladipo just fits so well in Orlando both in how the team is structured and in the community. Of course, if a team is willing to part with a franchise player but wants Oladipo in return, I wouldn’t blame the Magic for making that deal. However, that should be the only situation the Magic consider dealing their closest thing to a superstar.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Vs Chicago (W 108-91): 5 points (2-3 FG)(0-2 FT), 8 rebounds, assist, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 6 personal fouls, 20 minutes.

@ Indiana (W 117-95): 11 points (4-7 FG)(3-3 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 23 minutes.

@ Milwaukee (W 98-95): 23 points (9-12 FG)(5-5 FT), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 31 minutes.

@ Brooklyn (W 104-96): 10 points (4-8 FG)(2-2 FT), rebound, 3 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 22 minutes.

Trade Deadline Moves: Acquired Courtney Lee in a 3-team trade while giving up Brian Roberts to the Miami Heat and P.J. Hairston to the Memphis Grizzlies

There was no doubt that the Charlotte Hornets were going to make a move at the trade deadline and there were talks of that move being Dwight Howard. In any kind of Howard trade, Cody Zeller would more than likely be a part of it since it would be a waste to have both when you can only play one at a time.

Luckily for Zeller, talks with the Houston Rockets went nowhere and so the Hornets went a different direction and traded for Courtney Lee. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injured again, it opens up a spot in the starting lineup and Lee offers good defense and good shooting. That means more spacing on the floor so big men like Zeller and Al Jefferson can have more room to work with in the post.

Should He Have Been Traded?

The Hornets seemed to have found an identity with Zeller at center, as Jefferson has been coming off the bench ever since his return from injury and may stay in that role because he’d have an easier time scoring against backups. For that reason, I’m glad Zeller wasn’t traded.

On the other hand, there is still a logjam in the front court and you still have the feeling that moving one of those big men would have been a better way to balance the roster instead of trading guards P.J. Hairston and Brian Roberts. I still feel that someone is leaving in the offseason but whether or not its Zeller or someone else remains to be seen.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ Memphis (W 112-106): DNP – injury

Vs Houston (W 116-103): DNP – injury/coach’s decision

Vs Golden State (W 137-105): 9 points (3-6 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 personal fouls, 22 minutes.

Vs Utah (W 115-111): 5 points (2-7 FG)(1-1), 8 rebounds, 3 turnovers, personal foul, 16 minutes.

Trade Deadline Moves: Acquired Anderson Varejao and a conditional 1st round pick in a 3-team trade while giving up a 2nd round pick to the Orlando Magic; acquired Brian Roberts from the Miami Heat in exchange for cash

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Portland Trail Blazers have exceeded all expectations as they currently sit at seventh place in the western conference a week after the all-star break. There were a couple of rumors that the Blazers might trade some of their young developing talent (such as Noah Vonleh) but Portland smartly decided to keep its young players. The Blazers remain focused on developing their talent and if they make the playoffs that’s great but if they don’t it won’t be a big deal.

That didn’t mean the Blazers were going to avoid taking part in a couple of midseason trades. Portland helped Cleveland and Orlando complete the Frye trade and all it cost was a second round pick. In return, the Blazers received a conditional first round pick from the Cavaliers. To be more specific, Portland now has Cleveland’s 2018 first round pick unless the Cavaliers are drafting in the top 10 for some reason. Portland also ended up with Anderson Varejao in that trade, but he was immediately waived so he won’t affect Vonleh’s playing time. The Blazers also added Brian Roberts (who the Heat traded away right after getting him) as a veteran backup for Damian Lillard and only gave up some cash.

Should He Have Been Traded?

As I previously wrote, I think it was a smart decision to keep Vonleh, as well as their other younger players. For Vonleh in particular, I don’t think there’s a better situation for him. How many other NBA teams are going to be as patient and helpful as the Blazers have been? Portland is committed to grooming Vonleh into key player for this franchise and I don’t see the team changing its mind anytime soon.

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Minnesota (W 116-102): DNP – injury

Vs Utah (W 100-96): DNP – injury

@ Oklahoma City (L 121-95): DNP – injury

Vs Philadelphia (W 121-114): DNP – injury

@ Detroit (W 111-106): DNP – injury

Trade Deadline Moves: Acquired Jarnell Stokes and cash from the Miami Heat while giving up a future 2nd round pick

With the New Orleans Pelicans quite a few games out of playoff contention, I figured they would either start selling off veterans to acquire younger players and draft picks or that they would try to swing for the fences by grabbing a big-name player in hopes of jumpstarting the team to make a late-season playoff push.

Turns out neither happened as they basically stuck with their team. Stokes, the one player they acquired, was released immediately so they could sign free agent guard Bryce Dejean-Jones because his 10-day contract had ended. Dejean-Jones played fairly well for the Pelicans and is meant to provide depth at the shooting guard position when Eric Gordon comes back.

Should He Have Been Traded?

I really respect Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps for sticking with this group of guys even after the slow start to the season. The truth is that the Pelicans should have traded Gordon only if they were giving up on trying to make the playoffs and were looking ahead to next season. Not only are the playoffs still a possibility (The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and Sacramento Kings are in front of the Pelicans for the eighth spot but none of those three are sure things), but the Pelicans really need Gordon now after losing Tyreke Evans for the season. If Gordon plays well when he returns, he may also earn himself a new contract to stay in New Orleans.


Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 14.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.7apg, 0.95spg, 0.29bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.0% FG, 37.7% 3FG, 88.5% FT, 33.4mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 14.4ppg, 4.9rpg, 4.1apg, 1.38spg, 0.58bpg, 2.2tpg, 2.3fpg, 41.2% FG, 33.7% 3FG, 82.8% FT, 31.7mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 3.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 0.5apg, 0.44spg, 0.29bpg, 0.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 42.6% FG, 21.4% 3FG, 81.3% FT, 16.1mpg.

Cody Zeller: 9.1ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.9apg, 0.83spg, 0.68bpg, 1.0tpg, 3.0fpg, 50.3% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 74.5% FT, 24.9mpg.

Mistake-Free Indiana Able To Hold Off Rival Purdue

The Indiana Hoosiers’ Achilles’ Heel all season has been turnovers and so the question became “how good would the Hoosiers be if they didn’t commit turnovers?”

They answered that question on Saturday when IU committed only four turnovers as they beat archrival Purdue 77-73 to break a three-game losing streak in the series.

The Hoosiers went the first 17:06 of the first half without committing a turnover and only had one at half while the Boilermakers had eight. The four total turnovers for the game ties for the fewest by the Hoosiers in the last three seasons.

“We want to play fast, we just don’t want to play reckless,” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about how the team’s mindset led the way for there being so few turnovers. “I think (our players) have a lot of respect for Purdue. They know how good that defense is. They put a lot of pressure on you. So to me, we needed to make the simple play.”

Indiana (22-6, 12-3) also showed it has multiple players who can take a game over at a moment’s notice. The first half featured Troy Williams and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell ripping apart Purdue’s defense as the duo accounted for 28 of IU’s 35 first half points. In the second half, Thomas Bryant scored the Hoosiers’ first seven points of the second half while Max Bielfeldt had all of his 10 points and 6 rebounds after halftime, including a stretch where he was responsible for eight points during a 12-0 IU run.

Williams led all scorers with 19 points and in the process became the 49th Hoosier to score 1,000 career points. Ferrell also broke out of his shooting slump as he went 7 of 13 from the floor to score 18 points.

The Boilermakers (21-7, 9-6) were led by freshman big man Caleb Swanigan, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. He was also a key player behind Purdue’s 21-9 rally during the final seven minutes of the game, in which he scored half of his points.

Purdue almost had a shot to tie or take the lead when A.J. Hammons blocked Ferrell’s drive to the basket with 7.1 seconds left but was called for goaltending. Despite looking like a questionable call in the moment, replay showed that Hammons touched the rim during the block attempt which by rules certifies a goaltend. Indiana was able to hang on from there.

The Hoosiers won’t play until this Thursday when they travel to face Illinois. The game will be at 9pm eastern time and will be on ESPN.

From The Boxscore:

  • For those of you who want proof that Indiana only turned the ball over four times (and I don’t really blame the skepticism), here is a list of the four turnovers and what happened during those possessions:
    1. The first one didn’t come until the 2:54 mark of the first half and it came on a Robert Johnson offensive foul, which technically counts as a turnover because you did something that gave the ball to the opponent without the reason being a missed shot.
    2. The second one came with 9:07 left in the second half and was credited to Yogi Ferrell.
    3. Max Bielfeldt committed the third one with 7:36 left in the second half.
    4. It wasn’t until the fourth and final turnover that Purdue made Indiana pay for a mistake. Ferrell’s second turnover of the game with 44 seconds left was a result of a Purdue player poking out the ball from behind while Ferrell was dealing with the press in front of him. P.J. Thompson got the steal and assisted on a Dakota Mathias three-pointer that made it a one-possession game.
  • This is the third time in the last 20 years that the Hoosiers have won 12 of their first 15 Big Ten games. The other times were 2008 and 2013.
  • Ferrell, after shooting 10 of 40 his last four games, ended his slump when he made 7 of 13 on Saturday.
  • This was Ferrell’s 130th career start at IU which ties him with Christian Watford for the most career starts by a Hoosier.
  • Troy Williams becomes the 49th Hoosier with 1,000 career points and the eighth player to do it under IU head coach Tom Crean.
  • Having only 4 turnovers to Purdue’s 13 is great, but what’s even better is that IU had 20 points off turnovers compared to Purdue’s 3 points off turnovers.

Williams and Morgan Help Indiana Overcome Slow Start To Beat Nebraska

The Indiana Hoosiers seemed to still be reeling from the second half beatdown Michigan State gave them on Sunday when IU fell behind six early against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. But the Hoosiers found their rhythm late in the first half and took control the rest of the way as Indiana won 80-64 to return to first place in the Big Ten.

From the 1:34 mark of the first half to the 15:39 mark of the second half, Indiana (21-6, 11-3) went on 20-2 run to break a 34-34 tie and put itself ahead the rest of the way thanks in large part to Troy Williams. Williams scored six of his game-high 18 points during the run and also added a rebound, a steal, and a block during that six minute stretch.

“I had more of an attacking mindset,” said Williams about his approach to this game. “After the Michigan State game, I didn’t come out aggressive and I watched (the tape) and me and Coach (Tom) Crean talked and decided it’s time to put on an aggressive mindset.”

Nebraska (14-13, 6-8) didn’t go away quietly as the Cornhuskers responded with a 11-3 run and later cut the Hoosiers lead to single-digits.

However, Nebraska’s threat didn’t last long as Juwan Morgan stepped up late by scoring nine of his career-high 12 points  and grabbed all five of his rebounds during the final nine minutes of the game as the Hoosiers extended an eight-point lead to a 20-point lead.

“My teammates set me up by putting me in position to get easy buckets,” said Morgan about his career scoring day. “I remember the most recent one, Troy (Williams) drove to the lane hard with an attacking mindset, and all I did was move out of the way and he found me. Just them making plays like that just opened up everything for me, and I just can’t thank them enough for that.”

Indiana looks to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since the beginning of February (which were wins over Minnesota and Michigan) as the Hoosiers face in-state rival Purdue on Saturday night at Assembly Hall. Game will start at 8:30pm and will be on ESPN.

From The Boxscore:

  • The Hoosiers have yet to lose two games in a row this season as Indiana is now 6-0 following a loss.
  • Troy Williams is now just 11 points away from becoming the 49th Indiana Hoosier to score 1,000 career points.
  • IU shot 7 of 17 over the first 14 minutes of the first half but finished the half making 5 of 6.
  • Williams led the Hoosiers in scoring (18 points), OG Anunoby led them in rebounds (6) and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell led them in assists (4).
  • Ferrell’s shooting slump extended to a fourth game as he only hit 2 of 8 from the floor. Over the last four games, Ferrell has shot a terrible 25.0% (10 of 40) on field goal attempts.
  • Jack McVeigh led Nebraska with 17 points while Andrew White III added 15 points.
  • The Hoosiers remain undefeated in Assembly Hall, improving to 15-0.
  • Indiana is tied atop the Big Ten standings because Iowa lost at Penn State just before Indiana played its game. Penn State has now beaten Indiana and Iowa in its last two home games.
  • Juwan Morgan set career-highs in both points (12) and rebounds (5).
  • Thomas Bryant only scored 4 points and grabbed 2 rebounds, but he did set a career-high with 3 assists.
  • Rob Johnson added 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Three Questions From Indiana’s Blowout Loss At Michigan State

Even though they led by as many as 10 points late in the first half, the Indiana Hoosiers still had to feel really good about their play going into half even though they were down by one. However, that feeling disappeared when the Michigan State Spartans dominated in the second half and ended up demolishing Indiana 88-69.

Not many expected the Hoosiers to win in East Lansing, but it was the fact that IU showed it was capable of winning that game that has Hoosier Nation asking questions. While I don’t have the correct answers, I’ll still give my opinion on what I think are the three of the biggest questions that have surfaced from this loss. If you have a different opinion or just want to add on to my opinions, please leave a comment below.

  1. Is it time to bench Troy Williams?
    • Benching Williams is not a viable long-term solution, but it may be a good short-term one. The man I call “Tornado Troy” has been a force all season, wreaking havoc against both Indiana’s opponents and Indiana itself. When Williams is at his best he’s an NBA lottery pick, but when he’s at his worst he’s a walking turnover-machine. Even though there were quite a few good things from Williams on Sunday, the fact he was scoreless in 20 minutes of play outweighs all of them. My solution would be for Williams to come off the bench for just Indiana’s next game (home against Nebraska) and in his place start OG Anunoby. Williams’ play has responded positively to being benched in the past, and might be what he needs to get going again. It’s also arguably the easiest game the Hoosiers have left so if the switch backfires IU would still be able to overcome it. Williams is the wild card in determining IU’s fate this season and like it or not he needs to play.
  2. What’s the reason behind Yogi Ferrell’s shooting slump?
    • The overwhelming theory is that the heavy minutes load is starting to catch up to him. While that does sound reasonable (Ferrell is playing 34.2 minutes per game), one look at his yearly stats and you notice he played around the same amount of minutes both last year (34.9mpg in 2014-2015) and during his sophomore year (33.8mpg in 2013-2014). Instead I think it goes a little deeper. With James Blackmon Jr. out, Ferrell has made it a point to put the team on his back Add that with the fact the Hoosiers have had a hard time functioning on the court without him and you end up stacking even more pressure and stress onto those minutes. The only real fix to this is if the Hoosiers can prove they can play well enough without Ferrell for extended periods of time so Ferrell can rest a few more minutes. The good news is that IU did just that in its win over Iowa. Now it’s up to Ferrell to take advantage of any extra minutes of rest.
  3. How crucial is it for Indiana’s NCAA tournament resume to get a road win over a great team?
    • I really doubt that not winning a road game against a top team is going to keep the Hoosiers out of the NCAA tournament. I also don’t think it will affect seeding that badly (one seed-line at most). If Indiana is able to grab wins over Maryland and Purdue, it won’t really matter to the selection committee that those games were in Assembly Hall. Where road wins are important to IU is in the Big Ten title hunt. Despite the loss on Sunday, Indiana still controls its own destiny as the Hoosiers still have one more game against Maryland and Iowa. However the game against the Hawkeyes will be in Iowa and is now a must-win, but only in terms of winning the Big Ten.

Resilient Hoosiers Earn Signature Win Over Iowa

Only one word properly describes this year’s Indiana Hoosiers: resilient.

The Hoosiers defeated the fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes 85-78 on Thursday night to move into a tie for first place in the Big Ten. It was the kind of signature win that the Hoosiers’ tournament resume really lacked and IU earned it by being resilient.

Indiana (20-5, 10-2) broke open a back-and-forth game with a 20-4 run from the 17 minute mark until the 10 minute mark of the first half. Indiana would extend that lead to as large as 16 when the Hoosiers led 36-20 with 6:03 left until halftime.

Yet Iowa (19-5, 10-2) steadily chipped away as they responded with a 25-9 run that had the game tied at 45-45 with 17:39 left in the second half. Both teams would continue to exchange buckets but with 9:35 left, the Hawkeyes held a 60-56 lead as well as momentum.

With a 16-point lead gone, the Hoosiers were on the ropes. Their star and senior leader Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had missed on his last nine shot attempts and the Hoosiers as a team were two for their last ten. It felt like all the pressure to win this game, which would give IU their first win against a ranked opponent this season, was collapsing in on the Hoosiers.

However, this Indiana team has actually thrived when it has had its back to the wall. Time and again the Hoosiers have faced obstacles only to grow from overcoming them. From rebounding from a sixth place finish at the Maui Invitational to the embarrassing loss at Penn State last weekend, the Hoosiers have shown resilience all year by never losing back-to-back games.

“When things get bad you can fall off and crumble or you can rise to the occasion. I think that we’ve done a really good job of rising to the occasion when adversity hits,” said Collin Hartman about the team’s resiliency this season.

The Hoosiers rose to the occasion again as Harrison Niego’s baseline jumper marked IU’s first non-layup field goal in over five minutes. That make was the beginning of a 19-6 run that would put the Hoosiers ahead for good. It was also a run that featured Troy Williams “coming back to life” and Ferrell finally making his second basket of the game.

“Troy was like Lazarus, he resurrected himself a couple of times during the game,” joked Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about Williams’ performance. Williams was mostly ineffective during the majority of the game, but Williams ended up being one of the main reasons behind the late run. Williams scored seven of his 13 points during those last nine minutes, which included a see-to-believe moment where Williams split two defenders and nailed a fadeaway jumper that barely beat the shot clock during the final minute of the game.

Indiana still has a lot of obstacles to overcome if  the Hoosiers want to stay at the top of the Big Ten standings amidst a grueling schedule that next has IU traveling to East Lansing to face Michigan State on Sunday. The only thing we know for sure is that Indiana will continue to be resilient no matter what happens.