Indiana shuts down Evansville in 77-46 win

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana opened the game on a 12-0 run and rolled to a 77-46 victory over Evansville in front of a holiday-break crowd of 16,255 at Assembly Hall on Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers improved to 6-1 and never led by fewer than 11 points after that game-opening 12-0 run, swelling the lead to 34 points before giving up a 3-pointer in the last minute of the game. Evansville fell to 5-1.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Coming off the bench for the first time this season in a surprising move that put senior walk-on Jeff Howard in the starting lineup, sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell appeared motivated and scored 18 points. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and eight of his nine free throws while also picking up two steals and three rebounds. 

Freshman forward Noah Vonleh shook off a scoreless, foul-plagued performance against Connecticut in the 2K Sports Classic and posted his fifth double-double in seven games with 13 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 5-for-6 from the field and knocking down his first career 3-pointer. He also hit both of his free throws and recorded two steals and a block, committing just two fouls in 19 minutes.

Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell was a little off, making just four of 12 field goals and one of four 3-pointers, but he also posted 10 points. Senior swingman Will Sheehey posted six points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block and took the primary assignment of Evansville guard D.J. Balentine as much as anyone, though the Hoosiers were switching on most if not all screens. Balentine, who had come into the game averaging 29.6 points per contest and shooting almost 60 percent from the field and above 65 percent from the 3-point arc, was 5-for-17 from the field and 0-for-5 from the 3-point arc.

HOW DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers respected Evansville’s “X-Box numbers,” as Tom Crean called them and came in with a focused game plan. Obviously, the numbers were bloated with the Aces having not played anything approaching major conference competition, but the Hoosiers still noticed that Evansville was dangerous from outside (29-for-55 coming into the game) and fie field in general (56.6 percent) and that they also get to the free throw line a ton. The Aces were averaging more than 32 free throws per game and shooting 79.8 percent at the line.

Indiana paid attention to its game plan, switching on Evansville’s numerous screens and keeping ball-handlers behind them, making it difficult to make much of anything happen on drives. They were disciplined against ball fakes, contested just about everything at the rim and they owned the glass. Indiana won the rebounding battle 58-30 and surrendered just four second-chance points to the Aces, claiming 39 of the 48 caroms on Evansville misses, a defensive rebounding percentage of .813.

They were especially effective on Balentine, who appeared to be anxious in his first game at Assembly Hall. Balentine was a reserve and something of a bit player a year ago, but it was clear he felt he had something to prove against the state’s flagship program and also against players with whom he’d teamed on Indiana All-Star teams as well as AAU ball. The Hoosiers harassed him by switching and blitzing screens, simply getting up into him and making every shot difficult. Indiana was so much in his head that he missed his first two free throws after making 51 of his first 54 this season.

Crean’s message/gambit with the starting lineup also worked, whether he admitted to trying to light a fire under Hollowell or not. Howard was solid in his 15 minutes, making his only field goal attempt, grabbing three rebounds and recording an assist, and as Crean pointed out, he had a +15 in terms of plus-minus. Crean said that Howard was locked into the game plan and what the coaching staff was asking the team to do against Evansville, and hence he earned the start.

That was likely true, but it’s hard to imagine that Crean didn’t realize starting a senior walk-on would send the message to the rest of the team and Hollowell in particular, who was the player removed from the starting lineup for him. Whether he meant it or not (and let’s be serious, he did) the Hoosiers obviously got the message, Hollowell in particular. With this team, which at the moment doesn’t have a defined rotation and that has a lot of young players who have not yet separated themselves for each other, this is the sort of move Crean can afford to pull unlike a season ago when roles were so defined.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: There was much more potential for Tuesday’s game to be a trap game than may have been recognized. It’s sandwiched in between the 2K Sports Classic and the Syracuse rematch (each team has a lot of new players, especially Indiana, but still) and there is of course Thanksgiving and a week layoff to contend with as well. The Hoosiers, though, honed in, stuck to the game plan and did what they were asked to do, especially on the defensive end. This game will turn out to have a modest at best effect on the Hoosiers’ resume going forward, but it was another maturity building victory and it does send Indiana into that Syracuse game with just one blemish.

WHO SAID WHAT: Happy Thanksgiving to all of the wonderful fantastic people at ASAP Sports and the wonderful fantastic people who allow this service to be used at Indiana.






Q.  Talk about starting tonight.

JEFF HOWARD:  I found out before the game.  I’ve been working hard in practice.  Coach did what he did for his reasons and I came in and brought to the team what I bring to the team and that’s pretty much it.

I just try to talk a lot, being a senior, helping some guys out on the floor, defensively, a lot of stuff like that.  Just energy, little things.  Obviously I’m not going to score a lot of points but I had to defend, rebound and talk.


Q.  Jeremy, what was working for you?  18 points in 17 minutes.

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  My shot was falling, attack the basket to get to the free throw line, seeing the extra work payoff on my jumpshot, I’ve been getting a lot of reps, seeing that payoff, I feel like that’s really helping a lot.  That’s pretty much it.


Q.  Do you feel like you’re at your best when you’re getting to the FT line?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  Definitely feel like I have to use that to my advantage, attacking the basket.  7 for 8, knocking them down so just have to keep using that to my advantage.


Q.  Were you surprised you didn’t start tonight?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  Coach made his decision, Jeff came in, he did a great job.  He capitalized on his opportunity, and it was Coach’s decision and went along with it.


Q.  Did it feel any different coming off the bench for the 2nd time this year?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  I came off the bench one time this year, but got it going with the right mind‑set, playing the game ‑‑ just go in and impact the game and that’s what I felt like I did.


Q.  Does it really matter who starts with how deep you are?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  Not really.  We’ve got a deep team.  A lot of different guys come in and play different positions.  I mean, it really doesn’t matter to focus on it if you think about it, but it is what it is.


Q.  Another double double, what was working for you tonight?

NOAH VONLEH:  They were trying to send two guys on me.  Just working my way through and just going hard after the rebounds.


Q.  What did you learn from the last game (getting in foul trouble).

NOAH VONLEH:  It was a great learning experience.  I’ve just got to pump my feet more on the screens and just have my hand straight up when I’m playing a guy and don’t put my head up into the defender arm because I got a foul today like I did in the UCONN game.


Q.  How much did you feel that translated tonight for you, the four fouls?

NOAH VONLEH:  I just tried to not think about it and just kept staying aggressive.


Q.  Talk about playing against a team that was averaging 90 points a game?

JEFF HOWARD:  Our focus is always on defense.  We think that when we play defensively, it creates offense for us.  So we come to the game, we knew that they were leading the country in some field goal percentages, three‑point field goal percentages so we took that personally and didn’t want to allow them to come in here and match some numbers that they were putting up.

We had guys like Will and Evan getting double‑digit deflections.  Everyone came out with the mind‑set that we had to stop them and we couldn’t let them get open shots, they were all on emotion, and we had to get our switches right and our talk right.  We definitely came into the game with a defensive mind‑set.


Q.  What did you do well defensively that led them to shooting under 30%?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  I feel like with this team, we have a good job switching team, a lot of people can guard a lot of different guys, so, I mean, not so much we have to fight through the screens all the time.  We can switch, not switch just to switch, but switch to help us out and take things away and I think that is really beneficial to us.


Q.  What did you do well guarding specifically D.J. Balentine?

JEREMY HOLLOWELL:  I think getting up and throwing it making him put it on the floor a lot more.  Like I said, when he was coming off the screens, we really switched it a lot and coming off, we tried to double and blitz it and get it out of his hands.


Q.  How did it feel to knock down that three?

NOAH VONLEH:  It was wide open.  They backed off me, it felt pretty good job.


COACH CREAN:  We have tremendous respect for Evansville and the offensive firepower that they had.  The numbers were very high and very real and when you watch them on film, we were absolutely committed to doing the best job we could do defensively.

I thought we got off to great start in the first half.  They were 1‑for‑16 against our starters.  At the end of the game, with the exception of some fouls, they ‑‑ in the last 22 possessions and what we were searching for tonight was a 40‑minute game as much as possible.

We were searching for a game where beginning, in the end and in the middle, we were playing as hard and as committed to the defensive end and to the glass as we could possibly can be, committed to our running game.  There was time our running game was good.  There were times it was maybe a little fatigued.

But the fact that we were able to play so many guys ‑‑ I probably didn’t give us a tremendous rhythm in the first half maybe with as much subbing as we did, but I thought it was really important to keep guys fresh to keep them moving so that we could really close the second half.  I thought that we did that.

So some great performances from individuals, but most importantly, I like the fact that our team numbers were really strong; that we defended the three point line very well, because as all of you know, they are as good job as there is going into the game in the country with their percentages for field goal and from the three point line, and actually the free throw line.  And to hold them to 22 free throws, I thought that was good job.

I thought the way we defended, got us going offensively, and that’s the most important thing.  We got our deflections backup where they needed to be, at 60, and we had guys really impact the game.

So to me, I rarely ever look at the scoring.  JD points it out and we thank guys for what they did scoring‑wise, but we’re always going over the plus/minus, we are always going over the deflections, and we are always going over the rebounding and we are always going over what we did offensively.

Tonight there were a lot of positives, but as usual there’s a lot of things we have to get better at and we have a week to do it and we are looking forward to our next challenge.


Q.  What did you see out of Jeff (Howard)?

COACH CREAN:  I saw him get a plus 15 in the game.  I think really, I get to make those decisions, so to me, what I looked at over the last few days, was a guy that epitomized what we wanted out there in the form of energy, communication and intensity.  I thought he did it better than anybody else, and I think what we get is a lot of really good job play from the front line tonight.

But I thought Jeff established what we were out there to do.  It’s a very complicated team in the sense that you’re going to see a lot of cutting, screening, shot fakes, curls, players, you name it.  You’re going to see a lot of things.  You’re going to see more in ten minutes than you might see in two weeks and we wanted to be locked in, and we wanted to be really locked in tonight.

Q.  Was there an added bonus to getting Jeremy (Hollowell) motivated?

COACH CREAN:  No, just look at it, everybody has got to be in a play‑on‑demand type of thing, for me.  I don’t think ‑‑ there’s two things ‑‑ one‑and‑done is too big of a topic in the country right now and who the starters are is too big of a topic.

For me it’s always up for debate on the outside but it’s never up for debate on the inside.  It’s who is going to come out and bring their very best every day, and every day is measured.  Every day is measured.

So I don’t think it was any one thing of trying to light a fire so to speak.  I thought we were trying to give ourselves the best chance to start this game.

Q.  How important was it to get that out of Jeremy, basically the first time this year, and he got to the free throw line I think nine times.

COACH CREAN:  Well, I think it’s really important.  He’s got ‑‑ going into the game, he had 21 free throw attempts and ten of them came in the first game.  It’s really important that we get a lot out of that position, and ‑‑ any position, really, but the forward position is a crucial position.  You know, everybody’s got ‑‑ everybody’s got to get better.  Everybody has got to get better.  There’s no way around it.

And again, like I said, when you look at the rebound numbers, when you look at the deflection numbers, when you look at the field goal percentages, I think all of those things play into the fact that we got good job production from every position.  But that’s the most important thing.

But I thought Jeremy did ‑‑ I thought he played very well tonight in all ‑‑ I mean, being specific, I thought he really did a good job.


Q.  Defensively what worked?

COACH CREAN:  Switching.  I thought switching was good.  We were very locked into them.  The whole key is we are not challenging ‑‑ over our first six games this year versus the first six games last year, our shot challenges, our defensive block‑outs, those things were not nearly as high as they were a year ago.

Again I never try to compare, well, Cody scored this and Victor scored that.  Some of Victor’s numbers a year ago six games in were not second pick in the draft numbers, trust me.

But when you looked at all the things that he was doing in the sense of blocking out and in the sense of getting to the glass and in the sense of challenging shots and the sense of the deflections, those things kept him going as his shooting percentages and things like that improved.

I think sometimes it’s very important for players in‑house, because there’s not a lot of stories and graphics that get put up on those things.  That’s just the way it is.  But for teams to win, those things have really got to be there.

I think for us tonight it was the block‑outs, it was the shot challenges.  It was our switching was very good job, and big, big thing is we stayed down on shot fakes for the most part.  I’m pretty sure there were a couple we got up on, but those are the big things.

They are great at drawing fouls.  I mean, they are phenomenal at it.  They jump into you.  They lift the ball up.  They want to you leave your feet and we needed to have great discipline.  So if I had one ‑‑ well, the two aspects would be defensive discipline and defensive vacation.  Those were the biggest things that worked tonight.

Q.  How important was it for Noah (Vonleh), the two fouls in the first half ‑‑

COACH CREAN:  Well, that’s key, because what we are trying to do with Nolan, he got that second one ‑‑ I know he’s getting tired of hearing this.  But every player has got to keep their hands free, okay, and I watched Kevin Love play last night.

There’s so many reasons that Kevin Love is a great player but no one ever gets to his hands.  They never, ever get to his hands.  Great rebounders, great catch guys, their hands are always free.  Noah has got a 7‑5 wing span, and we are trying to remind him how important it is to have that.

And it’s not just Noah; it’s everybody.  But the one time when he got his second foul, they got into his hands.  And whether legal, illegal, doesn’t make any difference, you have to have your hands free.  So he’s trying to push through it and I’m sure they caught him on it.

So the bottom line is ‑‑ I know that sounds simple and mundane.  It’s real.  That’s what you have to get guys understand constantly is that their footwork, their hands, their positioning, their stances, all those things matter.  They matter more than anything else, because you can’t get anything done without them.

And they would say, why is he talking about a guy having his hands; because people are trying to take your hands.  They are trying to knock your wrists out of there.  They are trying to make it hard for you to catch.  Sometimes we make it harder for ourselves because we’ll wrap around and we’ll get our hands down or we won’t be challenging shots.

We’ve got to learn that that stuff really matters.  That’s a little bit of why we have such a young ‑‑ why our team is so young; they just don’t get that yet, that it’s very important.  And I thought in the second half, he was not going to be denied.  He learns quick.

Q.  The rebounding has been ‑‑ can you talk about that, what’s the key to sustaining that the rest of the game?

COACH CREAN:  Effort.  Jump.  Positioning, three and four at the glass every time.  Making sure that we’ve got good job defensive rotations and continue to learn that.  We are not there yet.

You know, one of the things with Yogi we want to do constantly is have him moving and not just be in one position.  You might see him at the elbow; you might see him in the corner; you might see him in the post.  You want to move him around; he’s a good player.  You want to move him around so it makes it very hard for the defense to key.

Well, if he’s not corner and he’s got to get back, well, we can’t have somebody off the top running in.  Sometimes we make those mistakes.  I think it’s understanding that you’ve got to go hard every time, but you just can’t go.  You’ve got to be able to read it.  You’ve got to be able to position yourself.  You’ve got to know when you’ve got to wedge.  You’ve got to know when you’ve got to go over the top and you’ve got to know when you’ve got to spin.

The biggest thing is not letting people running into backs offensively, not letting people get to your hands and defensively making sure that you are making first contact, stick and pursue.  We have a lot of guys on this team that have always been able to rebound because they have been able to rebound.  They didn’t necessarily rebound because they had to have great technique to keep people off the glass.

Well, Cody Zeller was the same guy but a year ago he was blocking out at almost 80 percent.  Those are the kind of things ‑‑ every fundamental detail matters, and you’ve just got to go like crazy and go with great effort.

Q.  Big picture, are you seeing the kind of development, progress you’d like to see?

COACH CREAN:  Yeah, but I’m the first one that’s getting too far ahead, and I realized that today.  I’m pushing big picture too much so I’m probably going to shorten it up.  We have to make sure we are maxing out every day.

I think one of the things that helps people grow in here is it is demanding.  But I think what we have also got to look at, we have to make sure that they ‑‑ I think the hard thing for me, I see how good job they can be.  I see their talent level.  I’ve known them for so long through the recruiting process and things like that.  Want greatness for them.

But I think at the same time, we’ve got to keep making sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves ‑‑ I’m saying as a coach, don’t get ahead of myself and that we absolutely take each day for what it is.  Improve what we’ve got to improve upon, emphasize what needs to be emphasized upon, adjust what needs to be adjusted, okay, and just keep making sure that every day we walk out of here, they got better fundamentally.  And then I think the future takes care of itself so to speak.

But we’ve got a lot of talent, there’s no doubt about that.  We have got a lot of willing guys but we have got a lot of things to learn and I’ve got to keep remembering that as a coach.


Q.  How are you getting ahead of yourself?

COACH CREAN:  Oh, I think to me, it’s like ‑‑ I mean, I really see how good job they can be.  I think I saw it on Friday night in how poorly we played in the first half really cost us.

But we are spending so much time, like as a coach, I haven’t been spending nearly enough time on our fast break because we are spending so much time on other things.  You’ve got limited time and you’re trying to not wear them down and they are young guys, and you’ve got a million things you’re thinking about.

But the bottom line is we just have to get better at certain things every day and not ‑‑ not get ahead of ourselves.  We never get ahead of ourselves game‑wise, but we are asking them to learn a lot.  I’m not bailing them out but we are asking them to learn a lot.  We are asking them to absorb a lot.

We just need to make sure we keep staying true to the fundamentals, every day, that’s what it is.  I’m not beating myself up.  We are pushing them to reach a level and we have to keep understanding daily what this level can be.

Thank you.