Crean “hopeful” Sheehey will return Sunday, and other notes

Tom Crean said on a teleconference on Friday morning that senior forward Will Sheehey participated in non-contact drill work in Thursday’s practice and that he’s “hopeful,” that the Hoosiers’ captain will play at 3 p.m. Sunday against Illinois after missing Tuesday’s game at Michigan State with an ankle injury.

“We’re hopeful that he’s going to play,” Crean said. “He did a little bit yesterday. I’m not able to say if he was ahead of schedule or behind it. I think to have him out there was a real good thing. He didn’t do very much, but he did some non-contact work and things of that nature. We’ll see how it goes over the next few days. I think after yesterday we’d be hopeful.”

— Crean was asked again Friday why the Hoosiers have struggled to make layups and other shots around the rim in recent games. Per the official score book in Tuesday’s game, they missed 16 layups against Michigan State and that number was even bigger last Saturday against Northwestern. 

“I think some of it is fundamental, I think some of it’s part of the game,” Crean said. “… You have to be able to play through the contact, and there’s a lot of contact at the basket. You have to be able to keep your concentration high, you have to be able to keep your fundamentals high, you’ve gotta use the backboard. For us so many times it’s been taking one more dribble. We had couple of tough shots at the basket the other day. The one thing you can’t go and do is go up and throw the ball at the rim or the board and hope that it goes in. We had a couple of those moves in that span in the second half where Michigan State was getting great looks and we were taking a couple of tough ones. Our intention was good, getting to the basket was good, but the fundamental shot or making the next pass wasn’t as good. We’ve gotta outgrow that. That’s youth and inexperience. It’s really nothing more than that. As far as the layups, we work harder and harder on it. I think a guy like Stan Robinson is one. He’s gotta make the clean layup instead of always looking for the contact that comes with it. Then other times you’ve gotta be able to play through the contact. We concentrate on the fundamentals as much as possible. Nothing’s changed on that. We’ve done that since the beginning of the season. I think now it’s just that matter of, ‘Do I have a layup? Do I need to pump fake it? Do I need to take one more dribble? I do I need to go get it on the other side?’ I think what happens is, because of the length and athleticism of this league, it’s easier said than done. … We’re the same team that made a ton of layups in the Wisconsin game a little over a week ago.”

Crean has mentioned on multiple occasions that he’d like to see the Hoosiers take one more dribble before going up for the shot. He elaborated on that on Friday.

“I’ll give you a great example,” Crean said. “The other night Jeff Howard makes a back-cut. With no player there, it’s a clean layup. The player comes, so if you take one more dribble rather than trying to speed it up, taking one more dribble, going clear to the other side and going into a fundamental layup gives him a better chance to make that layup. What we’re constantly working on is all the different ways to make a layup. It’s not just about the conventional layup. We’re working on those things constantly in practice. We’re working against pads, we’re working against contact. Yesterday, we had more in our post work, more hardcore battles in there. I’m not big on us practicing fouling, but for a couple of minutes yesterday, there was some of that because you’ve got to be able to play through that. To me, the straight-ahead is where you really see it. When you’re coming down the lane, you’re either changing hands, changing direction without changing hands, you’re trying to get by your defender and what happens is you’re rushing the shot. you’re so concerned about the move that you forget to take one more dribble to get just a better angle. The dribble is like the backboard. The dribble and the backboard are really synonymous with creating an angle. Take one more dribble to get to the glass, take one more dribble to get yourself a better angle at the rim. When you try to finesse it, when you try to finger-roll it, when you try to throw it up there, when you try to get the contact rather than make the layup, you’re usually not going to be successful. You might be successful 15-20 percent of the time. When you play it as fundamentally sound as you possibly can and take that extra dribble, use the glass the proper way, — I think we have to pump fake more inside, we’re working on that — then you have a better chance of being successful.”

— Illinois has lost five straight games heading into Sunday’s 3 p.m. matchup and the Fighting Illini have won just once since beating the Hoosiers 83-80 on New Year’s Eve. Crean said that’s simply a product of a difficult league and some tough breaks.

“They’re still a very veteran group,” Crean said. “They do a great job of getting to the basket. They’ve had some tough shooting nights like many of these teams can have. But because of those veterans, because of the ability of guys like (Joseph) Bertrand and (Tracy) Abrams. What Ekey is capable of, especially the way he shot it last night. We know Rayvonte Rice after having a tough night last night is going to come in full of energy and intensity. I think it’s just a product right now of this league. You have to make shots in this league and they’re hard to get. They’re very, very hard to get. … I think they’re a veteran group. I think they’re going to come in with a lot of excitement and energy. I think we’re going to get their very best effort and I hope they get ours.”