Hoosiers trying not to get “out-toughed” again

In each of the last two seasons, Iowa was viewed as the one team in the Big Ten Indiana appeared to have an even matchup with.

The Hawkeyes — the only Big Ten team Indiana beat in Tom Crean’s first season in 2008-09 —  finished with one fewer combined win than the Hoosiers in those two seasons, and finished with just one more Big Ten win. They didn’t put a single player on the All-Big Ten team, and haven’t since 2008.

But the Hawkeyes won all four matchups with the Hoosiers the last two seasons, in large part because they were more physical inside.

In two games last season, the Hawkeyes had a combined rebounding margin of eight and outscored the Hoosiers in the paint 80-48. Two years ago it was even worse. as the Hawkeyes had a 20-rebound margin and 60-34 margin in the paint, winning the two games 58-43 and 73-57 respectively.

“The past couple of years they’ve out-toughed us here and at their place,” junior guard Jordan Hulls said. “It’s just something that we need to get back and just play our game with the defensive intensity and the edge that we need to have.”

Said junior forward Derek Elston: “I know a lot of the times in practice last year we kind of made sure for this game we were kind of bruising up each other a couple of days before because we know what they got. We knew that their bigs like to crash every time. We know that they’re not gonna not go. This year, we know that they’re gonna go every time. It’s all we’ve been working on in practice is rebounding, getting back that toughness back that we needed.”

The last two seasons, though, the Hawkeyes were overcompensating for a lack of overall talent and athleticism with their strength and bruising forwards like Aaron Fuller and Jarryd Cole. This year those two are gone, but replaced by slightly less physical forwards in sophomores Zach McCabe (6-foot-7, 232 pounds) and Melsahn Basabe (6-7, 225) and freshman Aaron White (6-8, 225). Anything they’ve lost in bulk, though, they’ve added with the continued success of senior guard Matt Gatens (13.2 ppg) and especially the rise of sophomore Roy Devyn Marble (11.3 ppg).

“Marble’s got the ball in his hands a lot,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “… He’s very aggressive offensively. He wants to get to the basket, very, very hard to keep out of the lane. It’s the length. It’s all that length. He can see over people. He’s hard to trap. The bottom line is he’s playing with a whole lot of confidence from what I see on film.”

The Hawkeyes (11-10 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten) may be the most difficult team to figure in the conference. They boast wins at Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as a home upset of Michgan. However, they’re also coming off a home loss to Nebraska. They’ve already lost to Purdue twice and Ohio State and Michigan State beat them by a combined 63 points.

But after being favored to beat them the last two seasons and losing, in most cases, as decisively as they had, the Hoosiers know exactly how dangerous they are.

“I think they’re very good,” Crean said. “I’ve always thought they were good. Just like I never wanted to buy into where we were picked at the beginning of the league and the informal poll, I didn’t want to buy into where Iowa was, because I think they’re pretty good. They’ve got a lot of talented players. He and his staff have done a great job of developing those guys that they’ve recruited and the guys that Todd (Lickliter) had. I think they’re good. They’ve gone on the road and they’ve won some big games. … We’re well aware of the challenge.”

Other notes from Saturday’s media availability

— Crean was asked about working with freshman forward Cody Zeller through his recent stretch of foul trouble and if he was becoming frustrated. Zeller has been called for at least four fouls in five of the Hoosiers’ nine Big Ten games this season and played just 19 minutes on Thursday against Wisconsin because of the foul situation.

Without taking a direct dig at officiating, Crean said that Zeller has often been doing the right things, especially in cases of block/charge scenarios.

“We spend a lot of time making sure that we understand that block/charge line (underneath the basket),” Crean said. “The idea that we got from John Adams who runs all the officiating was to put that line 6 inches above the actual line so you’re never close. That line is always down for us in practice. We’re rarely going to try to draw a charge when we’re anywhere near the lane, and we’re gonna be set. The other day when Cody gets called for a blocking foul, you can show him, ‘That’s not what happened. You took a charge. Let’s keep doin’ it. Even though it wasn’t called that way.’ We work extremely hard to make sure that we’re trying to teach the proper way to do things. The proper form of verticality in the post. The proper form of offensive rebounding. The proper way to rotate over and draw a charge. We’re gonna continue to do that. That doesn’t mean it’s always gonna be called like that … He’s doing the right things. Now is he always being rewarded for it? No. When you teach the right things, you expect to be rewarded for it in the game. You expect the game to be called in the last two minutes the same way that it is in the first two minutes. Those are the expectations you have as a coach and a program going into the game. It doesn’t always turn out that way. So what you have to be able to do is make those adjustments along the way. He’s gotten tremendously better at verticality, hands behind his head, positioning, things of that nature. That’s what we want to focus on.”

— Derek Elston took off the mask he still has to wear for practice and placed it in front of his microphone during Saturday’s media availability.

He first joked that he missed it because he was better looking with it on.

“It’s easier,” Elston said. “But everyone keeps telling me I look cuter when I put it on, so I don’t know what to do.”

But really, he doesn’t miss the plastic on his face. He still has to wear it for practices but is thrilled he doesn’t have to wear it for games anymore.

“I just hate it,” he said. “I thought it was gonna be pretty cool when I got it just because of Rip Hamilton and whatever. But after a couple of days with it, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with it, I think. The fact that I don’t have to wear it in games is a real sigh of relief.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston

12 comments

  1. Toughness
    Pritchard At home don;t let people down the lane for a layup. I know that is a simpleton statement , but we need to do that from the get go.

  2. Toughness

    Vic guard Marble. I think Remy should go up against Gatens. Stop penetration. If Remy is not playing anyway,
    he is house money on fouls. Add a dimension to the sub pattern.

  3. Someone posted a while back something to the tune of only a small amount of coaching occurs on game day. We all like Remy and want him to play more. What’s not to like? While it seems as though a physical presence, such as his, would be a no-brainer in shutting down an athletic guard we just don’t know what’s going on behind the curtain. Suppose he constantly misses assignments (switching, et al) in practice? Suppose the coaching staff knows that, despite his obvious physical gifts that are on display in the open court, one on one, he is a liability in team defense? Do we want him to play even if the coaching staff is pretty certain it’s a bad idea?

    We need to remember that, despite the recent slide, we are getting way more than we expected so just maybe they are making the correct decisions. Really, last November did you expect playing Wisconsin in Madison was going to be a nail biter or did you think we’d get our butts kicked? I saw a lot of game by game predictions and I don’t remember a single one picking a win at Wisky. Are the Hoosiers under performing or outperforming? I don’t claim to know but I do know they are way ahead of projections (except for Harvard who posted on the Scoop on Nov…).

    I have my favorites (Remy belongs there) that I’d prefer to see on the court and others (‘who shall not be named’) that I’d personally buy a ticket to Maui if he’d promise to stay there.

    That’s the nature of a team with strong fan support. We know a little bit more about our team than other fans and we make our own judgements. But if one of us is happy another is sad (unless it’s benching Verdell, then we’re all happy).

    That’s why they pay a coach.

  4. Really nice post, Chet. We only lost 69-60 to a #18 Wisconsin team last year at the Kohl Center. Only lost in OT to #25 MSU on the road when a certain Hoosier was out with injury.

    I’m not sure how much better those teams are from last season, but we shouldn’t dismiss how close we came without the most heralded recruit to come to Indiana since Damon Bailey. Having that special player in the middle, along with added experience our deep roster, and an athletic guard to help relieve Jordy and “Chosen One,” didn’t really make my wildly positive predictions seem that wild to me.

  5. Not that you ate saying this Harvard, but before others try to compare last year’s UW game to this one because of the similar final score, isn’t to point out that UW had a 4-7 point lead for the last 7 minutes of that game, whereas this years game was a 1point affair with 1:08 remaining.

    All I’m saying is that progress was made… It’s obvious in general, but also in this this instance.

  6. Not that you are…

    I want to point out…

    Fit into the above sentences that don’t quite make sense. I hate auto-type.

  7. Really like hearing Coach Crean tell Zeller(and us) “The other day when Cody gets called for a blocking foul, you can show him (on film), ‘That’s not what happened. You took a charge. Let’s keep doin’ it.'” Not all refs are going to do as poor a job of officiating as the ones in the Wisconsin game. I look for Zeller to have a big night Sunday. Go Hoosiers!

  8. Boomer, I agree. There are ways to work refs that don’t involve getting in their faces and drawing a ‘T’.

  9. CW needs to bring his long pants today. 20 and 10 would be an ingredient in victory. Roth playing a key role today could help Watford get there.

  10. I’m glad Dustin foregrounded this issue, so that it’s on the table and in people’s minds (hopefully in the team’s and coach’s mind, especially).

    The Iowa games were just about the hardest to watch over the last two years, because they were some of the only games when we were actually expecting to win, and thus the losses were an even bigger letdown.

    I remember our interior defense being particularly bad; it looked like McCaffery had his team prepped from the get-go to exploit our largest defect and out-muscle us inside and on the boards. Humiliating to watch, really – sort of like a pitcher who knows a guy can’t hit a curveball and strikes him out on three straight pitches.

    Let’s NOT let it happen again this year!

  11. Quick Note

    New Colts Coach Barber = FU MAN CHU/GOATEE
    That’s 4 plus Irsay.
    Odds on Special Teams Coach?

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