Indiana preparing for Syracuse rematch

Indiana coach Tom Crean and senior Will Sheehey said Monday that the Hoosiers are making a point not to look at Tuesday’s 7:15 p.m. game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as a revenge game. The two teams have changed far too much since March, when the Orange ended Indiana’s title-or-bust season in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals in Washington D.C. with a 61-50 win. The Hoosiers lost four starters including two top-five NBA Draft picks in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller and Syracuse lost three starters including first-round pick Michael Carter-Williams, fellow guard Brandon Triche and James Southerland.

But still, the video from the Hoosiers’ heart-breaking loss is educational.

“We’re going to look at it purely as a basketball game,” senior forward Will Sheehey said. “Not really the emotions surrounding it. Obviously, ending your season last year, it’s not what you want to do. But we’re going to dive into the film and we have been and looking at specific things within the game. Not just the emotional part, but more so the X’s and O’s.”

What stands out from an X’s and O’s, perspective, of course, is how poorly the Hoosiers handled Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone, a staple of coach Jim Boeheim’s teams as long as he’s coached the Orange. Indiana was one of the best shooting teams in the nation a year ago, but made just 16 of 48 field goal attempts (33.3 percent) and three of 15 3-pointers against the Orange last season while also turning the ball over 19 times.

“What we didn’t do as well in D.C. last year is we’ve got to take care of the ball,” Crean said. “The turnovers and the mental errors were some of the most painful things the first time that we played them. Right now, our turnovers have got to get cut down. There’s no question about that.”

And there was more to it than that. The Hoosiers, who for most of that season were outstanding at moving the ball and at staying in motion as a team, were not nearly as good at that in that game and that allowed the long-armed defenders in the Syracuse zone to swallow them whole.

“We were very stagnant last year on offense,” Sheehey said. “Then on defense, we didn’t contest as many shots as we had to and gave up too many second-chance points.”

This season, the Hoosiers bring an entirely different sort of team than they had in last year’s game. They are much longer themselves, starting for most of the season a lineup with just one player — 6-foot point guard Yogi Ferrell – who is listed as under 6-foot-7 in height. Last year, the Hoosiers started a pair of 6-foot guards in Ferrell and sharpshooter Jordan Hulls. It helps against a Syracuse team that will start a lineup that goes 6-2, 6-4, 6-8, 6-9, 6-9, but the Hoosiers aren’t nearly as good of an outside shooting team as they were a year ago. Three-point shooting is typically a good antidote for a zone defense — it simply didn’t translate into last year’s game for the Hoosiers — but this year’s group is shooting just 28 percent from beyond the arc so far this season.

“Offensively, you’ve gotta get a really good shot,” Crean said. “They are very good at getting you to settle, and I think settling is a recipe for disaster. I think bottom line, we’ve gotta have very good ball movement, body movement inside of the game. … We have a completely different team. I think the way that you go about setting your offense in this game, you want to simplify it as much as possible, and you want to do what your best at. It would be silly for us to think we’re just going to outshoot them from the 3-point line in this game. That’s not what our team is right now. There’s still a lot of different ways that we can play and attack in this game and we’ve got to stay committed and true to those.’

And they also have to defend. The Orange are averaging 76.7 points per game so far and shooting 45.3 percent from the field coming off the Maui Invitational title. Small forward C.J. Fair is averaging 18.0 points per game and was the MVP in Maui, building a case for All-America honors at season’s end. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney is averaging 14.3 points per game and Jerami Grant, former teammate of Victor Oladipo, is averaging 14.2 points per game off the bench. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis is averaging 11.7 points and almost five assists per game.

“When you look at them, you see some real consistency,” Crean said. “Cooney’s shooting, Fair’s ability to score. Grant’s relentlessness and aggressiveness and quickness and speed and ability to get to the rim and shoot pull-ups. Tyler Ennis just continues to distribute the ball and play with great poise for a freshman. (Baye Moussa) Keita and (Rakeem) Christmas and (DaJuan) Coleman are around the bucket all the time. They’re tremendous offensive rebounders. I think the fact that they’re so aggressive on the backboards, that’s going to be a great chore for us.”

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh


  1. Davis is the component we didn’t have last year…He doesn’t let the game dictate his approach. He’s a grinder that is also extremely athletic. Cool customer..He reminds me of a more athletic version of Daryl Thomas from years back. He just gets it done without a ton of fanfare..Gets in the mix and will make the big play or snag the big board that can turn momentum.

    We obviously need a strong game from Vonleh as well..But it’s Davis that could be the name that the announcers will be mentioning in importance and frequency with regard to unexpectedly impacting the game.

    Hoosiers 74
    Syracuse 73

  2. I want to remain positive but I have a feeling it could be a long night with a young team on the road.

    Syracuse 77
    Indiana 61

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