Indiana preparing for first trip out of Assembly Hall

Indiana isn’t easing its players into life outside of Assembly Hall.

Granted, the games the Hoosiers will be playing Thursday and Friday won’t be true road tests and Indiana could have as many alumni and fans at the 2K Sports Classic as anyone else in the event. Still, IU’s six scholarship freshmen will be in an environment unlike anything they’ve ever seen before, playing their first collegiate non-home games in New York City at the self-proclaimed most famous arena in the world — Madison Square Garden.

For Indiana coach Tom Crean, that means striking a balance. Part of the point of playing in exempt tournaments is to get time away from the court for team bonding and taking in the scenery, which in this case means all the grandiosity that is New York. But the Hoosiers also have to stay on task for their first two games against major-conference competition.

“This is a hard environment to not get distracted in,” Crean said. “I think the bottom line is we want them to have fun. We want them to see New York. That’s again why we stay where we stay. We stay right down by Times Square. I want them to experience that. They’ll see an NBA game (Wednesday) night. They’ll see the Pacers and the Knicks. But like I said to them, when we sit down to watch film, we can’t be 15 minutes in and now I’m locked in. When we get to practice, we can’t be 20 minutes in and now realize I’m at practice. That’s the stuff you worry about in practice. That’s where our leadership, if leadership is going to be a strength for us, then it’s like rebounding. It’s gotta travel, too.”

The few Hoosiers who have been in this position therefore have to take control. Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell has never played in the Garden before, but he does have the experience of having played in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a year ago, not to mention a season’s worth of road games in the Big Ten and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

“We’ve gotta just kind of show these young guys it’s all business,” Ferrell said. “We can always have our fun down there in our off time. But when we step on that court, we’re there to win. We don’t want to come out of New York with any losses. It’s going to be on our part to get those young guys focused.”

And also to get them to understand that playing in an NBA arena is not the same as playing in Assembly Hall. Some of the freshmen understand that — forwards Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams played in the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclays Center and Vonleh played in the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center in Chicago — but the experience is still different in the games that count and outside shooting is a more important component than the dunkfests that are high school all-star games. That requires some focused preparation during shootaround and warm-ups.

“It’s a big arena,” sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell said. “I think the biggest part is just the arena itself, how big it is. Seeing behind the basket how the basket is so open. I think the rims are a little tighter with the NBA arenas. … It’s the same technique, but you’ve just gotta get a feel for it. Rims are rims, yeah, they’re a little tighter. But you’ve just gotta focus on your footwork, focus on your follow through, just all of the little things.”

And beyond transferring the fundamentals to a different environment, there’s also the challenge of dealing with Washington, Indiana’s first opponent of the tournament, in Thursday’s 9 p.m. game.

The Huskies (2-1) have already shown some vulnerability with a loss to California-Irvine in the season’s second game and they have been shaky at best defensively. All three teams they’ve played have scored at least 78 points, and Washington allows 81.3 points per game. Opponents are shooting a blistering 49.2 percent from the field so far and have hit 20 3-pointers in three games.

The Huskies, though, are scoring even more, averaging 84.0 points per game. They aren’t shooting the ball all that well (41.1 percent from the field and just 24.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc) but they attack the basket in both transition and the half-court and get to the free throw line. In just three games, they have attempted 104 free throws and made 82 of them, a 78.8 percent clip.

“Their transition game is the best we’ve watched on film,” Crean said. “I have a pretty strong impression it’s going to be the best we’ll have seen at this point and maybe for a long time. They get the ball out of bounds really quick. They attack, they do a great job of playing off one pass and getting the ball thrown ahead and attacking the rim. They want to play fast, they want to play quick. There’s not a lot of time spent in that half court. The ball gets swung a couple of times and they’re going to the rim or shooting the 3.”

The Huskies have five players averaging in double-digits, starting with senior guard C.J. Wilcox, who is averaging 20.3 points per game this season after earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season with 16.8 points per game. Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a McDonald’s All-American a season ago and a teammate of IU guard Stanford Robinson at Findlay Prep in Nevada, is averaging 13.7 points per game and has 16 assists in just three games.

Sophomore guard Andrew Andrews is averaging 13.7 points per game and freshman reserve guard Darin Johnson is averaging 11.3 per game.

“They can all score,” Crean said. “There’s no question they can score and they can score quick. Wilcox can score from so many different places. I don’t know if I would pinpoint and say, ‘OK, they just do this or they just do that.’ The ball gets moved. They can score. They’ve got great freedom. Very good off the dribble team. I guess the common denominator I’d say with all of their perimeter players is they’re very good off the dribble. Goss has got a runner and Wilcox is more of a pull-up, but they’re very very good at catching it and playing off the bounce.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Yogi Ferrell

AUDIO: Jeremy Hollowell

“They can all score.

18 comments

  1. Assuming that the Hoosiers win their first game, they have to play the next day on less than 24 hours rest AND they will have two or three hours less rest than their opponent.

    Actually, the same thing is true even if they lose the first game. They still have to play the next day against an opponent who will have had two or three hours more rest.

    That seems unfair to me.

    In fact, even in the NCAA tournament, they would only have to play every other day.

    Why are the Hoosiers the ones getting shafted?

  2. Poor Kids barley beat the Chump team LIU. I almost peed my pants because I couldn’t stop laughing after I read the score. This team doesn’t stand a chance against Washington. They’ll come home 0-2 and lose to King Boeheim once again.

    Crean will over coach the youngsters and they’ll look like Deer in headlights again. If Noah stays I can see IU being decent next year, maybe a 4 seed and exit again in the sweet 16. IU fans have been disappointing me. They used to have high standards. It was Big Ten championships and final fours or Bust. But after Crean started handing out rings for sweet 16’s and hanging banners after losing home games the fan base started getting soft. Sad for the sport.

  3. You’re not that smart. This is a new year and two new teams. Syracuse had us beat in length last year. Noah’s going to eat that zone alive. I hope you come back after the game and talk that smack.

  4. remind “Orange Supreme” that beating ST FRANCIS of BROOKLYN 56-50 is NOT a statement of ANY kind…except alot of hot air over nothing.

  5. “Poor kids barley beat….”

    Orange may have an idea. Are the poor kids eating
    enough barley in their diet? Grain is important. Do you have to beat barley?

  6. West Coast,
    If you play a two-day tournament at one venue, somebody has to play the later game. It is impossible for someone not to get “screwed” in that regard. Washington is equally screwed, so exactly half the teams get a raw deal if you look at it that way.

  7. Washington is far more screwed because of the 2400 miles they have to travel, a 3-hour time change, and the likely jet lag. If we pummel their butts, they should use it as an excuse. If they pummel our butts, they should claim it as additional bragging rights.

  8. Marcus Smart epitomizes a team first mentality. I love his reasons for returning that are primarily built around his feelings that he was not going to leave college with the bitter taste in his mouth(nor in his teammates)a loss to an Oregon in the NCAA tournament(team he felt they were superior). He hungers for the banner and redemption for the jersey on his back.

    Good for him. He rolled the dice on the sure thing his quick millions for something far more everlasting.

  9. Here is the deal, guys. Washington is terrible – and I mean, absolutely terrible (like IU-Wisconsin terrible) in non-conference road games against ranked opponents. This has been one of the big criticisms of the Romar years – that the Dawgs can never win a spotlight game against a reputable opponent. They’ve come super-close in recent years: MSU and Kentucky in back to back losses in ’10-11, Duke in ’11-12, and OSU last year.

    They just can’t seem to pull one out. And don’t expect the trend to change this time around.

  10. It is pretty cool isn’t it Harv… Seems genuine too.

    Husky that was just cruel. I can’t believe you’d do that to your Hoosiers.

  11. Geoff-

    He wouldn’t do that to his Hoosiers. He couldn’t feel that amount of hurt. It’s the confession that it’s never a win-win and a heart is never 1/2 broken.

    To HT with his supposed divided love between Hoosier and Husky, there could never be a greater validation than a victory for his deepest love after it was horribly wounded by the crushing loss to bastard child of Indiana basketball, the school with zero banners from West Laughed-at-yet, that his home boys had no answer for in the NCAA tournament a few years back. Win-win? Don’t buy one ounce that hogwash. He’s another one on here that doesn’t know how to spell Isiah. Brandon Roy!…Nate Robinson!! Isaiah(wrong spelling if you’re a real baller) Thomas!! Gush-gush….weep-weep…kiss-kiss…moan-moan.

    George = Husky
    SW = Hoosier

  12. For those of you that were paying very close attention to the above video from the Apollo, yes, that was Smokey Robinson(not to be confused with Nate)as one of Cosby’s “group of people right off the corner.”

    Is that not one classic vid?

  13. My Huskies just lost to UC Irvine (they pick a new non-conference lightweight to lose to each year). If I wasn’t already crying after that loss, I surely won’t be after this one.

    To be clear:: my loyalties aren’t evenly divided, and I never claimed they were. I will always be a huge Hoosier fan, except when they play Washington, which happens once or twice a century.

    Harvard would like nothing more than to create a mountain out of this molehill, but it ain’t gonna happen.

  14. Yeah, you’re right. Your Huskies are a college basketball molehill…Best leave them as such. How are you going to handle Alford dismantling you every year? The pain…the pain.

  15. Think 1987 is a distant flickering star in the memories our once elite basketball program?

    Here’s a program from the only year the Washington Huskies made it to a Final Four.

    Other “One Shining Moments” of 1953:

    -Cost of a gallon of Gas 20 cents
    -Salk gives himself and his family the polio vaccine
    Playboy Magazine’s 1st issue features Marilyn Monroe as its first cover girl and nude centerfold
    Shane and War of the Worlds hits movie theaters
    -New York adopts three color traffic lights
    -Cigarette Smoking is reported as causing Lung Cancer
    -Most popular ‘butt crack’ of all time. The Coppertone Girl was introduced to the American public
    -Wiffle Ball invented
    -#1 Billboard song March 21 – May 15:
    The Doggie In The Window – Patti Page

    Last Fun Fact: A college freshman at UW listening to their vacuum tube radio during the Huskies 1953 Final Four appearance would now be 80-years-young!

    Nothing to be ashamed of…Shane was one hell of movie. I still get a lump in the throat during that final scene with Joey.

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