Indiana advances with 75-58 win over Penn State, but Jones injured

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana advanced in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2006 but the victory carried with it emotional pain because of who wasn’t on the bench to witness it.

The Hoosiers notched a comfortable victory over Penn State, 75-58 in front of 17,936 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but senior guard Verdell Jones went down in the first half with what for know is being called a lower right knee sprain.

“Without a doubt, it’s a tough afternoon,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean, who also got emotional during interviews with the Big Ten Network and the IU Radio Network immediately after the game. “You want to win, which we did. You want to play well. But you want to do it with your whole team, but we didn’t get to do that today.”

The injury occurred with 5:45 to go in the first half. Jones was driving into the lane and appeared to be going up for a shot, but he stopped and his knee seemed to buckle in a non-contact injury. He lay on the floor for several minutes and had to be carried off by teammates. He never returned to the floor. 

“He’s being evaluated now,” Crean said in his post-game press conference. “We’ve got a great team of doctors that were with him, obviously right away. I was hopeful when he went down that it wasn’t as significant. I’m going to keep holding out that hope, but I don’t obviously feel good about that. We’ve prayed numerous times. It’s in the doctors hands. It’s in God’s hands. We’re just going to absolutely hope for the best for him.”

The possibility for Jones’ return obviously don’t seem promising. Even if he doesn’t have a full blown torn ligament, he obviously wouldn’t have much time to recover from a sprain. If he doesn’t return, Crean said freshman guard Remy Abell will be used to fill his minutes, but the void Jones would leave is much greater than that. He’s the 24th-leading scorer in Indiana history with 1,347 points, he’s second on the team with 94 assists, and he’s effectively co-captained the Hoosiers with junior point guard Jordan Hulls. He’s the most visible member of a senior class that joined the program after the Kelvin Sampson recruiting sanctions and subsequent roster purge decimated the team, and played through three of the most trying seasons in program history.

It was devastating for Crean to see Jones go down so close to the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2008.

“We go through a lot together,” Crean said. “With these guys, we go through a lot together. Verdell Jones stands a lot for what’s right here. When you start to think about all of the things that these seniors have had to endure and go through, and now to be at this point, that’s tough. That’s a tough blow. The initial of just watching him in pain. That’s hard. There’s no worse feeling than when your children are sick or hurt. It’s really a lot like that when you coach.”

Instead of letting the emotion of the moment get to them, though, Indiana responded quickly after Jones went down and took control of the game. Senior guard Matt Roth knocked down a 3-pointer eight seconds after play resumed, starting a 7-0 run that gave the Hoosiers a 31-21 lead with 4:05 left in the half. Penn State cut it to 38-32 at half, but Indiana went on a 14-0 run early in the second half to go up 54-34 with 12:27 to go and cruise the rest of the way.

Both teams had rough shooting nights, with the Hoosiers finishing 19-for-52 (36.5 percent) and Penn State shooting slightly worse at 19-for-55 (34.5 percent). However, the Hoosiers got a sublime performance from Hulls, who had experience at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (back when it was still Conseco) during Bloomington South’s state championship run in 2009 as well as Indiana’s game against Notre Dame earlier this year. He seemed to have mastered the deceptive shooting backdrop right out of the gate, finishing 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc for a team-high 20 points.

“Shots were falling down for me,” Hulls said. “Teammates were finding me when I was open and I was able to create a little bit on my own.”

The rest of the squad was a combined 12-for-42, but the guys who weren’t shooting well were at least making their free throws. Junior forward Christian Watford was 2-for-11 from the field but a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line for 14 points to go with 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Cody Zeller was 4-for-9, but he made 11 of his 15 foul shots and also posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Victor Oladipo was just 1-for-8 from the field, but he also grabbed 10 rebounds and the Hoosiers won the rebounding battle 45-29.

Meanwhile, defensively they simply wore out Penn State junior point guard Tim Frazier. The All-Big Ten first-teamer finished with 26 points and four assists, but he was 9-for-24 from the field and scored just seven of those points in the second half on 2-for-10 shooting. The Hoosiers used just about every defensive look they could think of, marking him with at least five different man-to-man defenders, but also using a lot of 2-3 zone to clog the lane and bottle him up.

“Different players went on him, I went on him, Will (Sheehey) went on him, and we went zone,” Oladipo said. “Just showing him different looks and I think that slowed him down a little in the second half.”

Said Hulls: “We just had to keep him in front. I think the 2-3 zone really helped us out. Just a different show of defense for him. He was able to find some guys sometimes, but overall I think we did a lot better job in the second half.”

The Hoosiers advance to play Wisconsin in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. today. The No. 4 seed Badgers won the first matchup between the two teams 57-50 on Jan. 26.

“Those guys know how to play,” Sheehey said. “They wanna play a certain way, and we can’t let them play that way.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean, Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls

AUDIO: More Tom Crean

AUDIO: Victor Oladipo

AUDIO: Will Sheehey

AUDIO: Jordan Hulls

11 comments

  1. You are right Kevin K, that’s sick to wish injury om anyone. Sick and sad. Particularly when there were some, even on this blog, who openly wished for an injury to VJ3. Maybe we should review the blog around the time of our losses to Minnesota, Nebraska…

  2. Where did I “wish injury” on anyone, you ignorant in-breds?

    All I was saying is IF an injury is going to happen, which they do ALL the time, I just wondered why they don’t happen to Kentucky players.

    Hopefully one day you idiots will quit knee-jerking and CRYING no matter WHAT I type and actually READ it…..or maybe you just haven’t made it to a 5th grade reading level yet and don’t understand basic stuff yet.

    I didn’t “wish” anything, morons.

  3. The really sad part of this injury is where it occurred. A meaningless poorly attended tournament whose sole purpose is to make money.

  4. Hate to see VJ3 go down like that this late in the season with the NCAA berth in hand. Hopefully he gets to suit up and see the court for an encore moment. The kid has had his ups and downs through his career. The shoulder injury helped him get himself, and the team, under control. He stopped forcing shots and played a lot smarter avoiding contact. Hate to see it even if we are a better team w/o him. Hope Abell can fill the void, which is an entirely feasible expectation.

    Another good, solid effort today with focus. CWat with another double, double! That’s 4 straight for him showing up big! Keep it Up CWat!!!

    Big, revenge game tomorrow! GO HOOSIERS!

  5. That is correct Laffy… Unfortunately you get attacked no matter what you say at this point. I think you’re just going to have to embrace it and play the villain role.

    Don’t know if there’s any truth to it, but on the telecast they said there were 17,000 people at the IU game in an arena that sits 18,000. If that’s true at least the IU games aren’t poorly attended.

  6. You’re right, Geoff.

    What’s funny is that people CRY…and I mean CRY….how “bad” I am and act like they “hate” it when, in fact, deep down they get their jollies off of it and try to provoke me so then they can feel better about themselves by putting me down.

    Sad bunch of losers.

    But, if they need a “villain” to help their self-esteem, I’m glad to help.

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