Gordon, Hoosiers pound Oakland

WHAT HAPPENED: Evan Gordon scored 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting and Indiana drummed Oakland 81-54 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall.

With a 10-0 run in the first half, the Hoosiers went up 32-16 and never really looked back. The deficit never dipped below 13 points after that and it peaked at 31 points.

With the victory, the Hoosiers improved to 8-2 and Oakland fell to 2-8.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: After scoring 15 points and making his first seven shots against North Florida on Saturday, Gordon made his first eight shots before having one blocked on Tuesday added a jumper and a 3-pointer after that. In the last two games, he’s 17-for-21 from the field. He was 12-for-30 in his first eight games. He was 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line on Tuesday after making just two of his first 11 3-point attempts. He also had three steals and, per Indiana coach Tom Crean, 13 deflections while guarding Oakland’s ball-handlers. He scored in transition, off the dribble, with mid-range and long-range jumpers, providing and important second perimeter threat beyond sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell. 

Freshman forward Troy Williams had 13 points on one of his best shooting games. He hit on five of his eight attempts and knocked down his only 3-pointer. He also recorded a block and three rebounds. Ferrell hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh had eight points and 10 rebounds, sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Freshman forward Luke Fischer had six points and six rebounds and guard Stanford Robinson had eight points and two assists.

Senior forward Will Sheehey continued to struggle from the field, missing all five of his field goal attempts, but he scored three points, had eight rebounds and more importantly spearheaded the defense of Oakland guard Travis Bader. Bader scored 11 points, but he was just 2-for-15 from the field and 0-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc, snapping a string of 62 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Gordon’s shooting was spectacular, but much of what set that up was continued ball movement. The Hoosiers didn’t have much of it against Syracuse last week, but they built some momentum against North Florida by making the extra pass, and they were strong in that regard on Tuesday night. Eventually, they got sloppy with the basketball and finished with 16 turnovers — many of them late once the game had been decided — but they finished with 14 assists on 30 baskets. They took 21 3-pointers, their second-most attempts this season, but unlike in that Long Island-Brooklyn game when they were so often settling for 3’s and taking the first open shot, the Hoosiers were mostly getting their looks in rhythm with space thanks to good ball movement. The ball moved inside and out, an from side to side, and each of the Hoosiers looked to kick out off of drives, sucking the defense into the paint to make for open jumpers. The Hoosiers aren’t going to be a great 3-point shooting team, but with good ball movement they can be adequate. And being an adequate 3-point shooting team can open up the paint where the Hoosiers can utilize their real strengths. That’s what happened Tuesday, as the Hoosiers shot 50 percent from the field — 60 percent in the first half — and scored 32 points in the paint. The Hoosiers also pushed the pace hard even though they only created 10 turnovers, scoring 12 fast break points with most of those coming off of missed shots. The pace wore Oakland down and that didn’t make it easy to deal with the quick ball movement in the half court.

The defensive performance on Bader was also outstanding. Throughout the game, eight different players took on Bader through switches off of screens, but for the most part everyone who drew the assignment hounded the player who will likely graduate with more made 3-pointers than any player in Division I history. Sheehey was all over him when he had the assignment, but he was also directing traffic on the switches, making sure whoever was taking him over took the assignment quickly and aggressively an didn’t allow him to get lost in the transition. Bader had a few open looks, but the pressure was so constant that he never could find his rhythm. Hollowell, and freshman forward Collin Hartman were also excellent with the assignment.

Beyond just Bader, the Hoosiers’ defense was strong all around. Mitch Baenziger managed a perfect night, making all five of his field goals including all four of his 3-pointers for 14 points, but Bader and center Corey Petros (13 points, 6-for-12) were only other players in double figures as the Golden Grizzlies shot just 19-for-59 (32.2 percent) from the field and 4-for-20 (20 percent) from 3-point land.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Gordon’s ascendance is the most relevant story line of the last two games, as the Hoosiers simply needed someone other than Sheehey to provide leadership and someone other than Ferrell to be a reliable perimeter scorer. Gordon had been useful in the first eight games, but it would help the Hoosiers substantially for him to be more than that. Indiana’s stable of wings is a big part of what makes the Hoosiers dangerous, but they also need true backcourt players they can rely on for ball-handling, shooting and on-the-ball defense. On Tuesday, Gordon displayed all of that with his 26 points, three assists and three steals.

Obviously, he looked really good playing a mid-major and that’s not the same as doing it against a Big Ten team, but still, the Hoosiers will need somebody to counter teams with multiple good guards. Notre Dame, Indiana’s opponent on Saturday, is a good example of that.

Beyond that, Tuesday’s game was another example that these Hoosiers are learning what it takes for them to be good. The ball movement was nearly as good Tuesday as it was Saturday, which opened up looks for them and that’s making them a better 3-point shooting team. They also stuck closely to the defensive principles on Bader. Again, it doesn’t mean much when it’s just Oakland, but it’s something.






TOM CREAN:  I think the biggest thing our players wanted to do tonight was really make a statement about how they would guard.  We have great respect for Oakland offensively without question, and any time you’re bringing in somebody like Travis Bader that shoots the way that he does and is the returning leader in the country, is the leader in the country, gets 11 attempts a game, shoots the percentage that he shoots, plus the fact that Baenziger is such a good shooter, our guys really wanted to do a great job defensively, and I thought they did.  I thought our defense stayed really good throughout the game.

One thing that stands out to me statistic wise is obviously Evan’s 26 points is big, but to me personally, as good as that is, the 13 deflections that he got are equally as good.  We had 56 deflections on a night that the other team didn’t play extremely fast and held them to the 32 percent and the 20 percent from three, and our guys were really committed to playing great three‑point line defense.

Sometimes we’ve struggled a little bit around the post because we didn’t bring double teams to it, but we just were committed to making it really, really hard for Bader and Baenziger, and the fact that they got five points in the second half and that Travis didn’t get a three I think is a game within a game for us tonight because we’ve got to continue to learn how important those things are, and you’ve got to have that commitment level to getting things done inside the game, especially when you get up like we did, and you just continue to play and continue to have a focus.

And young guys a lot of times, they lose their focus real quick.  So that’s where the game within the game becomes really important.

But we rebounded the ball at a pretty good rate.  We played some guys extended minutes tonight to see where they were at on that, and always room for improvement.  We were doing such a good job of taking care of the ball, and we got sloppy late, and that’s something that we’ve got to continue to correct.  But for the most part we played a really good game.

We played time and score with Yogi after he got the second foul, and he came back in and did an excellent job and in the second half did a fantastic job.  The fact that Will got eight rebounds, Jeremy got 10, Noah got 10, they were aggressive, Troy was fantastic, played really hard the entire game, got more numbers in the first half than the second half, and I thought he played extremely hard the whole game, and then certainly to see the way Evan is playing with confidence and shooting the ball with confidence is a big, big step.


Q.  What’s allowed Gordon to be so efficient?

TOM CREAN:  Well, I think it’s the defense, and I know that sounds trite, but it’s true ‑‑  13 deflections tonight.  He’s got big assignments defensively.  The challenge to the upperclassmen coming out of Syracuse was huge.  We let an opportunity slide by leadership wise.

I think guys like he and Will have taken that to heart to a degree to try to do more, but Evan is in the gym more.  He’s in the gym with Tim Buckley quite a bit, and I made that point the other day.  That’s really important.  And I’ve said this before, but when Evan came, one of our big points to him was that we thought there was a lot more that he could get better at and that he could improve in a lot of areas, and he’s doing that, and I think he’s starting to see that.

So hopefully that confidence continues, and it will if he continues to spend that extra time in the gym I have no doubt, and it will definitely continue if he continues to play defense the way that he is.


Q.  You talked about Troy, but just how important is confidence to his game at this point?

TOM CREAN:  Well, he made his first three, right?  Didn’t the first one go in?  I thought that was important because he was struggling with confidence the other night.  There’s no doubt about that.  He’s young.  He’s playing hard, and it would be so different if he wasn’t playing hard, but he was, and it just becomes ‑‑ we have high expectations for him.  He sits in here, and I never compare him ‑‑ I never compare his game per se to Victor’s, but we do compare the efficiency stats.  We do compare the hustle stats to Victor’s because basically the position that he’s playing.

I learned a long time ago not to compare player to player because they’re all different, especially when somebody is done playing you don’t want to put that on that, but there are standards for the position, and the more I coach, the more I learn, those are more important than anything else.  Can you help guys understand what the standard of that position is.  And you try to recruit to that, and you’ll make exceptions if they bring so many other things to the table that on your team you want to keep pushing that.

And for us it goes a step deeper because of how important the hustle stats are to us and the deflections and the post feeds and the shot challenges and the offensive rebound attempts and all those things.  It’s all effort related.

It was nice to see Troy get that, get that breakout offensive game like that.  And again, Will didn’t get a lot of points, but obviously the eight rebounds and the job he did defensively, that was huge.  Those are the things that we need.  The offense will come for guys.  It’s when they’re putting their effort and concentration into so many other areas that really make the difference for us.


Q.  How important was it to defend the three‑point line?

TOM CREAN:  Well, those were the two keys to the game.  You know, because we felt like if we could rebound, we could run.  Any time you have a team that’s averaging the amount of threes that they are in the attempts and the makes, especially between the two of them, they can get themselves back in the game at any point, so there’s no relaxing in that game, and they’ve been in some real fights.  They were in Gonzaga, Cal, Ohio U is a really good team, and then they played very, very well against them the other night, so they were coming in with confidence.  Again, there’s some high‑level guys out there that can make shots, and we wanted to do a really good job of that, and then there’s no question that as the head coach of the program, as good as our rebound numbers are, I don’t think they’re close to where they could be.

I did some substituting for guys tonight that didn’t go ‑‑ we’re not looking for them to go to the glass most of the time, we’re looking for them to be on the boards all of the time.

You lose a dose of that tonight with Devin because he’s just grading out as high as anybody when it comes to how he rebounds and when it comes to his deflections, and certainly with the rebound per minute, he’s doing a fantastic job, so we’re missing that, so you’re already concerned about that going in.  But everybody on the team can rebound the ball better, and some guys really accepted that challenge tonight.


Q.  How has essential is it to have that second perimeter threat?

TOM CREAN:  Well, I think it’s important, but it’s going to have to even be more than that in this league.  There’s no doubt about that.  You can’t ‑‑ the teams are too good.  If they don’t feel you can make shots ‑‑ we lived it for three years here, and it’s really, really hard to find things that work offensively when the other team knows that somebody can’t shoot, okay, or is not making shots.

But again, I’ve not been too worked up about that because when you see guys’ numbers rise like we’ve had in this program, and Victor comes to mind, but Christian Watford is a huge one because he was a 32 percent shooter as a sophomore and ended up in the mid to high 40s the rest of the way.  Those things, it’s not just the Jordan Hulls and guys like that that can really shoot and could always shoot.  It’s the guys that get so much better.

So we feel like that’s going to happen.  But again, we’ve also had some guys in here that at this time of year were shooting great from the field and didn’t work as hard, and all of a sudden those numbers go down.  If you want your game to expand, your work ethic has got to expand, your time in the gym has got to expand, and as long as that’s continuing to happen, I feel good about where our offense is going to go, and we’ll have more and more guys that can make those shots.


Q.  What worked well against Bader?

TOM CREAN:  We switched a lot.  That’s the things that ‑‑ we really recruited this team to be a team like that, that could do a lot of switching.  And I used to talk about the conversations with Denny Crum, playing against those teams, and if you have your optimum way to play you have a lot of switchable guys.  That’s what made Louisville so successful for so many years with Coach Crum.  We’ve been able to ‑‑ when you’re here, you should be able to recruit a lot of versatile guys if that’s what you choose to do.  But at the same time you’ve got to force guys that aren’t so comfortable with that to get to that point.

We didn’t want to switch with Noah and Luke as much tonight.  Bader got a foul at the end of the half because Noah decided to switch with Will.  We’re still growing in that area.  When you can switch the way our guards and wings and forwards can, that’s a real plus, and it’s got to become a real strength for us because what it does is it lets you determine as they get smarter here because they understand the game better and understand what we’re trying to do, some nights you’re switching, sometimes you’re not.  Sometimes you’re flowing into a zone, sometimes you’re not.  We’ll get so much more well‑versed.  We’re going to get so much better with our defense as time goes on, being able to try to game plan and take things out.

And there’s a lot of things for us to add defensively that will bring pressure to the game, but we’re just really trying to get our true non‑negotiables in, that when we switch we’ve got to switch with a purpose, not switch passively but switch aggressively; switch up, not back; switch to take away, not to be comfortable.  And that helped us big time tonight.  We were very cognizant of where it was at.


Q.  Talk about Hollowell’s play tonight.

TOM CREAN:  We expect a lot out of him.  I mean, again, the standards of the position, and again, it’s not comparing him.  Jeremy wants to be really, really good.  I mean, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he wants to be a great player.  And what we’re trying to help him get to is to understand the completeness that comes with that.  And I thought he defended well tonight.

I thought that’s where the rebounding came.  But again, we’ve got to get him to the foul line.  We can’t have games where he’s not getting free throw attempts.  He’s too good a free throw shooter.  But again, he’s putting bits and pieces in there what he’s capable of, and I’d be shocked if it doesn’t come together here fairly soon for him.

But the competition level is going to continue to rise, too.  We all know that as we get into league play.  And that’s why his level has got to continue to raise, he’s got to handle the ball better, he’s got to make better decisions, he’s got to get lower constantly, not just lower when he’s fresh, but lower.

That’s where all those things that we’re trying to get accomplished in practice are so, so important, and that keeps us moving the needle, so to speak, of why every drill we’re doing has a value.  It’s not just a drill we do to kill time, it’s a drill that really has a value, and a guy like Jeremy has got to continue to grow in that because he’s growing in so many other areas.


Q.  Do you feel like there is an advantage for Gordon to come off the bench?

TOM CREAN:  I don’t think about that.  It really isn’t anything I’ve really factored in.  I changed the starting lineup weeks ago at walk‑through with putting Jeff Howard in.  That really doesn’t impact my thinking a lot.  I think this team, match‑ups do ‑‑ it’s so much about quality of the play.  I would look ‑‑ I look at the plus/minus and the deflections a lot closer than I look at the minutes played, because again, it just becomes so much about efficiency.  It’s kind of the same thing with the starters, and I know that’s always a good topic, but it’s not one that I really think a lot about.  I don’t put a lot of time into that.  I put a lot into combinations maybe, what combinations look like.  Now that we have 10 games under our belt, we’ll really be able to dive into that, especially next week after the Notre Dame game.

But I wouldn’t say that anybody is locked into a position.  I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t change it Saturday, I wouldn’t say that I would.  I think it just becomes feel and how we’re practicing.


Q.  Where do you feel your team is at?

TOM CREAN:  I don’t think like that.  I never really have.  I don’t dissect it like that.  I’m looking at every area ‑‑ we’re looking at every area I should say.  I think I’ve got a really good coaching staff, I’ll tell you that, and I think we’ve got a bunch of hungry players that really want to get better, so I like where that’s at.

Another great job tonight by Steve McClain.  His preparation was fantastic.  We had that team cold, and we didn’t practice Sunday.  So usually what you do is you’d like to have two‑day preparation, and it was geared that way, but I felt like we needed a little time off, and they were doing double sessions academically because this is such a big week for them academically.  We’ve got so many guys that are going through exams for the first time.  I’m cognizant of that.  But we just look at every area, and I really try to watch the films in the sense of what’s our ball screen offense and defense look like, high side, corner, what’s our time‑out look like, what’s our rebounding look like, and I try to stay as focused ‑‑ we try to stay as focused on the details of what will make them better.

Like Noah Vonleh can rebound a lot better than 10 rebounds a game.  That’s not coach‑speak, that’s realistic.  He’s that talented.  So it’s our job to keep trying to push him to that because he’s getting ‑‑ people are very, very locked into not letting him rebound.  Well, you know, he’s going to ‑‑ rebounding is going to be a big part of his life for a lot of years, long after here, and the better that he can get at that, the better he’s going to get at everything else.  So I look more at that than I’d look at any one place where we’re at.  These guys think I’m crazy when I talk about we can get so much better at rebounding with the way our rebounding numbers are, and we did tonight.  And we’re going to need to on Saturday.  We’re going to need every one of those rebounds and more on Saturday to beat one of the more experienced teams in the country like Notre Dame.

Q.  How much is ball movement doing for you guys?

TOM CREAN:  Well, what we’ve got to do, they’ve got to see that that does travel, too.  Whether the shot goes in or not doesn’t always travel with you, but the ball moving and not being concerned about defenses.  And young guys a lot of times get too concerned about, what are they in, and we didn’t even run that many plays tonight.  Sometimes we did on a dead ball.  But it’s really, really important because the more that it’s moving in the full court and getting advanced and getting thrown ahead, it seems like the better it is when we’re in the half court.

But that’s all what you’re seeing is products of them learning spacing and learning more about that.  And there was adjustments inside of the game.  We thought pick‑and‑roll would be hard with Petros tonight, and all of a sudden we found that we could get some randoms, and we worked into that.  We were getting more random pick‑and‑rolls with him because he likes to sink.  And Hill we say is a lot like Roy Hibbert; he likes to sink and fill and try to plug the gap rather than come all the way up.  Well, when we got him in randoms it really helped us.

The guys are figuring the game out as it’s going along, and that’s really important, too.




Q. Where has the consistency come from?

EVAN GORDON: You know, we’ve just been moving the ball as a team.  I’ve stayed aggressive.  But I mean, Yogi stayed on me to make sure I stayed confident in my shot, and our coaches stayed on me, and I’ve been doing extra work, so it’s all coming out.


Q.  Has that been from confidence?

EVAN GORDON:  Well, you know, when your team has confidence in you to make your shot, it gives you confidence.

LUKE FISCHER:  I’ve been a lot more comfortable ever since that shoulder brace got off, it’s been a lot better, a lot more movement, and just feels like back to my old self.


Q.  Have you changed anything or is it just getting into the flow of the game?

EVAN GORDON:  I think if you watch the game you can see that the team is moving the ball a little bit more.  I’ve gotten open.  I’ve stayed a little bit more aggressive than I usually have been, but that’s about ‑‑ it’s just kind of the ball movement, really.


Q.  Have you changed anything or is it just getting into the flow of the game?

EVAN GORDON:  No, I haven’t.


Q.  Talk about Will’s defense tonight.

EVAN GORDON:  You know, I mean, coming into the game we knew Bader was the best three‑point shooter in the country, and Will has done a great job explaining things, helping out with switches, just having the whole team on the same page, and I’ve just stayed aggressive defensively, and we got a big win.


Q.  Talk about your defensive play the last 2 games.

LUKE FISCHER:  A little bit of both of what he just said.  A lot more emotion.  The brace really restricted how high I could raise my arm because that was the main problem with it, and then also just the whole comfort factor where I just have full movement and I’m not afraid to re‑hurt it anymore or anything like that.


Q.  Could you talk about the team’s defense tonight?

LUKE FISCHER:  I mean, it was fantastic.  Holding the best three‑point shooter in the country to zero threes this game, that’s hard to do, and we did that.  That was our whole game plan going into it, and we executed it perfectly.


Q.  What was the game plan for Bader?

EVAN GORDON: I mean, honestly with a shooter like that we’ve just got to make sure we limit his touches and make sure he just doesn’t get a clean, open look when he does come off those screens.


Q.  Talk about Will’s defense tonight.

EVAN GORDON: Yeah, you know, with our team, during practice he explains things that he’s done in the past, and he kind of makes sure that we run it right, and if we don’t, even if we get a stop on the defensive side, we’ll have to run it again, and he’s done a great job with that.


Q.  How have you seen the team’s rebounding develop?

LUKE FISCHER:  It’s great.  I mean, we still get yelled at in practice for not being good enough at rebounding, so that just makes us strive to be better at it.

Q.  How much of an emphasis was made to get Gordon the ball?

LUKE FISCHER:  I mean, he was on fire tonight so we knew that we had to keep giving him the ball.  It was just his night, and the ball movement was just spectacular right now, and he made his shots, and everything worked out for us.

Q.  Talk about the team’s ball movement.

EVAN GORDON: I think, you know, we’re playing a little bit faster so we’re pushing the ball ahead, we’re throwing it ahead, and it’s creating two‑on‑ones, three‑on‑twos, and we’re able to just get an edge on the scoring a little bit, and it’s going from side, top side, we’re going to the baseline and passing it all the way out, so the bigs are doing a good job throwing it back out, and we’re throwing it back in.  It’s touching the paint, and everybody is getting pretty good looks.