Indiana’s first opponent of the 2013-14 season will be one that puts the Hoosiers’ young players under immediate duress and forces them to think fast.
Chicago State, which the Hoosiers host at Assembly Hall at 7 p.m. Friday in the season opener, is coming off an 11-22 season but also a Great West Tournament Championship and a berth in the College Insider.com Tournament. The Cougars don’t bring a ton of scoring, but they do have experience and more importantly, a tenacious full-court press.
“They are a tremendous trapping, trap of the ball-screen, trap in the backcourt, full-court pressure, half-court trapping, switching team,” Crean said. “They’re going to create some havoc for us. It’s a great opener for us because it gives our guys a chance to go up against certainly one of the more experienced and older teams that we’re going to see and a team that’s going to put tremendous pressure on them defensively.”
The press, Crean said, comes from a number of different angles. The Hoosiers had not spent much time against full-court pressure early on in the preseason, but they have to get acclimated to it quickly. The Cougars caused an average of 16.8 turnovers per game last season and also averaged 9.4 steals per game.
“They mix it up,” Crean said. “There’s a zone pressure that’s 1-2-1-1, there’s a 2-2-1 press, and I think as scary as any of that is the way they trap out of their zone and the way they trap the ball screens. This team, they’re going to force the tempo defensively. It will be very good for us to have to deal with that. Will we trust the dribble splits? Will we make the next pass? Will we take on the trapper? Will we slip screens? All those different things that go into dealing with that. Will we get the ball reversed? Will we put the ball over our head? Will we panic when the pressure comes? Will we get pushed to the sideline or the baseline where there’s built in defenders there? Those are the kinds of things they’re really good at. They’re good at angling you to those places.”
It’s a good test for the Hoosiers because they are still figuring out how they want to handle the ball. Sophomore Yogi Ferrell is the starting point guard, but the Hoosiers didn’t even start a true two guard in the last game and they used all-wing lineups that featured sophomore 6-8 forward Jeremy Hollowell as the point guard. They ran into a problem against Hillsdale when they weren’t sure who was supposed to receive the in-bound pass off a made basket.
This will require them to get much more coordinated faster.
“They feed off their energy and they feed off their press,” Ferrell said. “Once they get a couple of steals or so in the press and a couple of good buckets, they’re going to get fired up. It’s going to be a good test for us to see how well guys handle the ball and how well we can make certain passes. We just kinda got to be patient with it and try not to speed up, because I feel like that’s what they’re going to try to do is speed up our game, really. ”
— Freshman forward Noah Vonleh said he isn’t overly worried with his free throw issues so far, even though he missed all eight attempts at the foul line in his two exhibition games.
“I’m not really concerned about it too much,” Vonleh said. “As you guys know, I went 0-for-8. In practice, I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well from the free throw line. I think I just gotta zone everything out and just focus and shoot it with confidence and I think it will go in.”
— Though Ferrell is the team’s one true point guard, he’s also becoming one of the team’s best outside shooters. He shot just 30.3 percent from beyond the arc but spent much of the offseason working on his jumper. It showed in the first two games, as he hit eight of his 15 attempts in the two exhibition games.
“I kind of like playing off the ball a little bit just because I can find the open spots and look to score,” Ferrell said. “I kind of watch Will a little bit because he’s the best off-ball, finding his gaps, really. That’s what I just try to do, I try to find open areas for me to get the ball and swing it out or take the shot myself.”