IU looking to make up for personnel losses against Spartans

BKC Indiana PENN STATEThe visitor’s locker room at the Bryce Jordan Center was a tough place to be for the victorious Hoosiers on Wednesday.

The ensuing two days haven’t been much better.

After OG Anunoby left this week’s game at Penn State with a knee injury, Indiana learned Friday that its versatile sophomore forward will now require surgery and miss the remainder of the season.

It’s a significant blow to a Hoosier team that also doesn’t expect to have Anunoby’s classmate, Juwan Morgan, available for Saturday afternoon’s game against Michigan State.

Injuries continue to undercut Indiana’s ability to fix itself midway through the season, and while Anunoby’s loss, in particular, sent shockwaves through IU’s program, the Hoosiers also recognize the need to be ready ahead of a critical matchup with the Spartans.

“We’ve been in these situations before, but it’s unchartered for this team,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “The Collin Hartman injury was really, really tough but it was in the preseason and a lot of the new guys and the guys that were back, we never got to see what Collin could bring to the team this year. Well, they did get to see what OG is capable of. Sunday, he had seven steals and 18 deflections. They’ve seen it in practice. They see it throughout the games. There’s no way to equate what kind of loss it is, but the bottom line is that everybody has got to continue to take steps forward.”

Anunoby’s loss is particularly inopportune given the matchup problem that Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges creates.

Bridges, a former Indiana recruiting target and high school teammate of IU’s Thomas Bryant and Curtis Jones, is averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds across his last four games after missing all seven of the Spartans’ games in December with a left ankle injury.

Anunoby would have been the ideal defensive matchup with Bridges. Morgan may have been IU’s next best option. While Crean said it was possible that Morgan could play Saturday after hurting his foot last weekend against Rutgers, the IU coach also characterized Morgan’s status as doubtful.

Now, Indiana turns to its supporting cast. De’Ron Davis, Zach McRoberts and Freddie McSwain are the natural candidates to pick up shares of the 25.1 minutes per game that Anunoby averaged, as is IU’s freshman backcourt duo of Jones and Devonte Green.

“(OG) brings a lot to the team,” McRoberts said. “You hate to see that happen to him. It’s a tough situation for him, but we’ll be there for him. He’ll be there for us.”

McRoberts is capable of providing the hustle minutes, especially some of those intangible plays that Morgan gives this team.

Although McRoberts’ box score impact is often limited — he grabbed two rebounds and dished two assists at Penn State — the walk-on from Carmel has endeared himself to his teammates for his willingness and ability to bring energy off the bench.

“Zach brings a competitive edge,” Davis said. “He competes in every aspect of his game. He just competes. That’s what we’re going to need. The team’s going to pick up for OG’s slack.”

On the other end of the court, Tom Izzo’s young Michigan State team is still learning how to function away from Breslin Center, where the Spartans are 9-1 this season.

Outside of East Lansing, things have not gone as swimmingly. Michigan State has dropped six of its nine road games, including a 72-67 loss at Ohio State on Sunday.

But even for their youth, the Spartans are playing tight defense. They have the third-best opponent field goal percentage (.402) in conference play, and in victories, the Spartans are holding the opposition to 37 percent shooting, as opposed to 46 percent in defeats.

Indiana can’t afford anymore slip-ups at home, where the Hoosiers’ early conference losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin have complicated the road ahead.

After Saturday, IU will play only four of their final 11 games at Assembly Hall, so it’s important for this team to strike in a favorable environment.

Especially when the Hoosiers are forced to play without two of this season’s most important players.

“We’re not going to make up for the size and the wingspan and the speed and the strength and all those types of things (Anunoby and Morgan provide),” Crean said. “But we do have to make up for it with tenacity. Our focus is strong, but (Saturday) isn’t here yet. We really need that crowd to be behind these guys completely. We’re playing one of the better teams in the league and always one of the better teams in the country. This season is no different. They’re hitting their stride.”

21 comments

  1. I guess when you are talking with microphones shoved in your face it’s sometimes difficult to be eloquent.

  2. Michigan State will be in serious foul trouble early and we’ll pull this game off. No way we lose with a little help from our friends in Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall!!!!

  3. Of course no IU fan wants to see OG be in the situation he is in. Wish him well and a successful recovery. However, with a T.C. coached team over the years it’s a wide range of issues after issues. Time for excuses has way past run out if IU is going to get back to anywhere close to elite status rather than just a top 50 to 75 program as season wears on year after year. IU is less than the top/elite mid measure programs. IU is less than Indy/central Indiana Butler. Doesn’t anyone/any IU fan care?

  4. I care. But I care more about the digression he has served upon the quiet and humble culture at a public university that should foster inclusiveness, accountability, integrity, access, and a confidence to know its hope rests in its own need to improve(whether that be all we can do to help someone succeed…or to recognize we share in our humble knowledge that we all make mistakes). Those that sit in positions of power(from administrators..to professors…to coaches before a blackboard) can set great examples by simply acknowledging their own shortcomings and openly challenging themselves to do better(that’s where accountability begins)…rather than finding targets and excuses).

    We should first strive for elite values. I’ve never been impressed with how Tom Crean handled young men(this not only includes the many that may have been very difficult to set on a better course, but his own “chosen” recruits of character and faith who have stumbled).

    Lastly, I just want a humble coach who knows his craft ….A heart to do all you can for people rather than push or “chase”…or “vilify” someone out of Bloomington(often selling the perpetrator’s digressions as far more degenerate in nature as the reality) simply to get a shot at the next best recruit…… would be nice too.

    We need to be an elite “public” environment first. We shouldn’t jump on the trends of walling off and walling out those who simply don’t align to an ideal that constricts open thought nor challenges us to have new perspectives.

  5. Next 2-3 contests will tell much about the resolve of Coach Crean’s players and Coach Crean himself about his coaching abilities to make subtle but meaningful adjustments with a depleting roster. This maybe the launch point and benchmark from where AD Glass begins his 2017 evaluation of the IU BB program.

  6. Do you want kids on a team who are so aligned with a coach, so impressionable to same shared experiences and “ideals,” that they feel a fear to be honest or to challenge? Our country was founded upon much of that rebellious nature. Leadership can be fostered there as well….
    Are we struggling to put Indiana kids into candy stripes because they don’t want to lead at Indiana, or is it because they feel too much is relinquished to wear the uniform under the current direction/culture?
    Conformity rarely blossoms into chemistry. When enough comfort level develops via encouragement to challenge ideas(in all communication channels; player to player…coach to player…player to coach), leaders emerge with greater conviction from those exchanges in trusted, fearless dialogue.

    The more we wall off our leaders from the press and deny the appearance of confidence and accountability, the more we squelch and environment that encourages fearless engagement in the hearts of those we seek to be part of our institutions/teams. Will they lose their own feelings of rights of protection/individuality because so much effort is made to make the leaders impenetrable and inaccessible?

  7. HC, that’s what I alluded to on another thread. This can go one of two ways. Either CTC shows us that he has the chops to handle the unfortunate, but not unusual, loss of players during the course of the season or he will fold like a Harbor Freight tent and spend the next couple months saying, “Woe is me.”

    Injuries are a part of the game. We still have at least 3 or 4 guys who are pretty sure that they will end up on an NBA roster. Maybe a dozen other teams in the country can say that.

    Time to fish or cut bait.

  8. It’s a system that overall as elevated the IU program to more stable footing and reached it’s current fragile plateau. Now, it is beyond time to search and move onto a higher more dominate plateau.

  9. Watching the Fl State game. Talking about the Miami game where someone with Fl State scored 36 points in the last 4 minutes of the game. Obviously they don’t have CTC & his sub pattern.

    CTC’s response to less people available to sub? Maybe increase speed of sideline pace?

  10. Yes brownbomber, laughing out loud at some of these good folks’ comments is the only appropriate response. You show me any basketball coach who loses three key forwards to injury, two of which were starters and the third was the team’s sixth man, and I’ll show you a team that is not going to lose some games. Instead of appreciating the victory at Penn State after one of our stars goes down, some fans brought the pitch forks out. But I guess you can always criticize Crean for recruiting players who don’t have strong enough ankle and knee joints. LOL in deed.

  11. No problem. Arizona has two out for the season and another out indefinitely and a fourth got ‘Prillered’ They are 17-2. Kansas has lost 3 players, 17-1. Kansas State is down 4 players, 14-4. Ole Miss is down 4 players, 11-7. Remember Nebraska? They have 3 players out. Pittsburgh is down 3, 12-7. UCLA is down 3 players, 19-1.

    I could go on.

    Want to see tough times? SE Missouri State has lost SIX players so far this season.

    Everybody goes through injuries. Some handle it better than others.

  12. I just noticed that #7 Creighton is getting their butts handed to them by Marquette. Marquette has lost 3 players since the beginning of the season.

  13. I’m not saying CTC can’t win with these guys. I’m just saying this is a measure of his ability whether he does or not. An elite coach would feel pretty good about the players remaining on this roster.

    If he is an elite coach he should, too.

  14. Well, I guess today’s win answers the question about how Crean’s team would respond after losing another of their key players to injury. So, what I hear you guys saying is that the key to becoming an elite college basketball program is to keep at least ten all-star players on the team at all times, and that all of a sudden Crean is not a good recruiter? Wow!

    1. Why did they lose another of their key players to injury? Is there a similarity between IU basketball led by an incompetent coach who klings to his 1.5 million dollars per year at the expense of young men who play their knees out during his stupid workouts? Are the training sessions open to the media? Today IU won and if they make it to the Elite Eight incompetent can stay. If not look at his record he is 3-2 at home and 1-1 on the road. That’s a Lou Watson type of record.

  15. Well, yes, it does answer that for the time being. That was my point. MSU isn’t the MSU of past seasons but a win is a win. But it’s still one win. On to the next game.

    It sounds like JM was available so we only lost him for a few days. So, we’re down two players on the season. There are still plenty of great players that CTC has recruited. Good for him.

    Now, let’s see what he does with them.

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