Hoosiers’ Big Ten run ends in first game

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana’s last remaining hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid evaporated quickly as the No. 8 seed Hoosiers fell 64-54 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Hoosiers fell to 17-15. Illinois improves to 19-13 and advances to play No. 1 seed Michigan in the quarterfinals.

Indiana opened the second half on a 10-3 run to take a 38-33 lead, but the Illini answered with an 11-0 run and never trailed again. Indiana fought back and cut the deficit to one point twice, but on both occasions allowed Illinois guard Tracy Abrams to hit a 3-pointer to enlarge the Illini’s cushion. The second one and the dagger came with 2:06 to go when Abrams was left wide open at the top left elbow against Indiana’s 2-3 zone. He hit that 3-pointer to give the Fighting Illini a 58-52 advantage. That began an 11-2 run to close the game that gave the Illini a double-digit victory. 

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Abrams has never been known as a great shooter and the Hoosiers have mostly been able to keep him in check in most of their meetings with him in his carer. Thursday, though, the 33.8 percent shooter and 27.7 percent 3-pointer shooter had one of the best games of his career. His 25 points were two short of a career high. He was 8-for-16 from the field. Most of those buckets game because he was attacking off the dribble, using high ball screens to get the Hoosiers to use big men on him and making them look foolish. Those 3-pointers were also game changers, and surprising from a shooter who hit just 27.7 percent of his 3-pointers this season.

Illinois junior guard Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and freshman guard Kendrick Nunn added 10. Senior forward Jon Ekey and freshman guard Malcolm Hill both hit a pair of 3-pointers that were also important. Center Nnanna Egwu was just 1-for-8 from the field with two points, but he had seven rebounds and five blocks.

IU sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell scored 14 points, but was 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Senior forward Will Sheehey had 13 points and five assists, but also four turnovers. He was 5-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Freshman swingman Troy Williams scored 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, but also turned the ball over three times.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The same reasons so many other Indiana losses happen. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 16 times, struggling with Illinois’ traps, but on many occasions simply throwing the ball away. And even when they weren’t giving it up, they went through periods of offensive stagnation, especially when Illinois went to a 2-3 zone extensively in the second half.

In the first half, the Hoosiers struggled to get the ball inside, scoring a total of two points in the paint. However, they got better than average outside shooting, making six of 10 3-point shots, which made up for all but two of their second half field goals.

In the second half the Hoosiers were able to get to the rim early and got nine field goals inside the paint, but their outside shooting went cold and they were 0-for-10 from beyond the arc in the second half. They failed to get the ball to Sheehey, who was just 1-for-2 in the second half, and late in the game they couldn’t get the ball inside either. They didn’t score from the 3:13 mark in the second half until there were just 14 seconds left in the game, and that was enough to give Illinois the game.

Defensively, the Hoosiers had several miscommunications, with the most critical one being on Abrams’ second 3-pointer. Indiana was in a 2-3 zone with Vonleh at the top and Ferrell at the bottom. Ferrell said he stunted toward Abrams but then ran to the corner to make sure Abrams didn’t swing the ball to a wide-open Kendrick Nunn. Vonleh said he was expecting Ferrell to come up and also thought there was another defender who could run up and take Abrams. As a result, Abrams was left wide open and drilled a dagger of a 3.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Few were expecting that the Hoosiers would be able to pull off the four-wins in four-days miracle considering that they hadn’t won four straight games since November when their opponents included Samford and Chicago State. But it is disheartening for the Hoosiers and for the fanbase that they weren’t able to make enough of a go of it to get through the first day against a team they had beaten earlier in the season. This game in so many ways reminded them of what they are capable of when they play well and also how bad they can be when they don’t. The Hoosiers maddening season is likely to continue in the NIT — though that’s not a guarantee considering how many regular season conference champions have lost and therefore earn automatic bids. Even if it does, the Hoosiers didn’t show on Thursday the look of a team to keep playing, and if they maintain that posture, they won’t be playing much longer.

WHO SAID WHAT:

COACH TOM CREEN: Congratulations to Illinois. They played an excellent game today.

Q. You guys got it going from the three-point line in the first half, missed the last 11. Did they come out on you more? What changed the rest of the game?

WILL SHEEHEY: The ones in the first half kind of came off movement and penetration. The second half we didn’t necessarily get the same penetration and movement that we did the first half.

Q. I’ll ask both of you, the zones seemed to give you some troubles. Was that a big factor in the game for you? You came out the second half really penetrating and they went to the zone. There must have been a reason for it.

YOGI FERRELL: We needed to move the ball more, still kind of play inside and out. But we didn’t do that the second half.

WILL SHEEHEY: I think we had some sets where we actually did have some pretty good movement within the zone but it wasn’t on a consistent basis.

Q. For either of you, what about Illinois toward the end of that game, why were you not able to get over the hump there?

YOGI FERRELL: When they were running the high ball screen, we weren’t defending that as well as we were especially in the first half and then they got a couple of key offensive rebounds down the stretch in the second half.

Q. Yogi, specifically, what’s it like to play against Abrams that you played against now for two years at that guard position. It seems like he never quits.

YOGI FERRELL: Yeah, I’ve been playing against him for a while now. You know, it’s a good guard, big body. He attacks the rim really well.

Q. Tom, what was your — what is your message to your team at this point?

COACH CREAN: Bottom line is we can play better. We have to — you have to match the toughness and the competitive spirit every time that you play. And we’ve just got to quit making defensive mistakes in coverages and giving them live ball turnovers. Really what I want to do is try to find a different way to say that message because I’ve given it a few times. And that’s the biggest thing.

Q. Coach, you were — you guys were down 53 to 52 with a little over a minute left. What kind of defense — it looks like you guys were trying to transition?

COACH CREAN: It was a defensive mistake. It’s something that we practiced. It was just a mistake. We didn’t get into that rotation as quick as we needed to. We’ve done it all year. I mean, we’ve played that kind of defense all year. And in that situation, going to man, they were really hurting us with our high ball screen. So that was one reason that we had to go to more of the zone. We just didn’t get over there quick enough based on the person that was up that had to jump into the zone.

Q. Coach, what were your thoughts on your team’s energy, especially down the stretch? It seems that guys maybe weren’t as energetic that maybe they might normally be in such a close game?

COACH CREAN: Yeah, I have to watch the film. I didn’t think our execution was where it needed to be today. At some point you have to grow

Indiana – 03.13.14 1

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over — when things aren’t going right for you in lack of offense, then you have to be able to overcome it. And you can’t make mistakes on the other end.

Q. Tom, how would you define this season?

COACH CREAN: I wouldn’t. Because I hope it’s going to continue to keep going. So I’m really, 15, 20 minutes after the game has ended, I really don’t have a definition of — I hope we get to continue to play. It would be an honor to keep playing. And I’d like to see us continuing to get better.

Q. Tom, you mentioned that at some point you have to grow over. What are the biggest growth areas still out there for these guys?

COACH CREAN: The value of the basketball is a big one. Just a four-minute talk on the court. And sometimes the energy can lacking when the communication is not where it needs to be. Just continue to make simple basketball plays.

And probably the biggest word that we use is just that intent — the intent of it — intent covers a lot of things. It covers your competitiveness. It covers your awareness. It covers your grit. It covers your will, you know, the intent of getting stops.

We started the second half, I think we had seven or eight stops in a row. So that’s very good intent. I mean, without question, but it’s the consistency of that. And going back to Dana’s question, it was your question, right? I think the biggest thing to me that I don’t want to define it as but it’s certainly been that way this season is we’ve just never been as consistent as we need to be.

Like I said, I hope that we’re going to continue to play and we can keep building it. Because there’s a lot of talent. There’s a lot of work ethic in there. We’ve got to keep understanding what our individual responsibilities are for winning and that means making the game easier for your teammates.

And that is the hardest thing in my mind to get when you have a lot of guys that maybe winning came easy or they were surrounded with other good players or there wasn’t a premium put on it. But when there a premium put on winning, you have to make a simple play. You have to make it about your teammate.

You cannot lose intent even if it’s not going right for you. That’s the hardest process to go

through with it. If you don’t have enough talent, well, that’s another hard process. We have the talent. They just have to grow up and they have to continue to learn those lessons.

And days like today, they’re hard. You beat Iowa, you beat Ohio State, those lessons come alive pretty good. But you lose like today, in the Michigan game, we had all of that. But again, there was some costly defensive mistakes down the stretch and a couple of turnovers.

And that’s been the part of our season that’s really been the crux, that as hard as we try to work to get out of it, it still carries over into the games. And we just want to continue to build on that. Every bit of experience this team can get, especially being in this league and what we’ve learned from this league, to continue to go out and play is very important.

Q. Coach, Vonleh hasn’t had double digits in over a month. Do you think that’s kind of a result of the foot injury or do you think it’s kind of hitting the freshman wall?

COACH CREAN: I don’t know. The injury has definitely been there. He was very limited in practice this week. I think you can see that in his energy at times in the game. We’ve really had to hold him back in the practices. And it’s part of it.

So there’s no question he can be more aggressive. There’s no question about that. But he gets a lot of focus too as you see. As good as Yogi is and as good as Will is,the post double and things like that, the freshman that misses time, it’s like missing considerable amounts.

And again, you can say they’re playing the games but it’s that rhythm of practice. That’s why the one zone play we ran at the end when Noah hit Will and Will hit Troy, that shows how good they can execute it. We ran that two days ago. The opportunity to learn it and get those things done, you got to keep doing it time and time again. And young freshmen go through different walls.

I don’t know if you ever see a proverbial wall where they just run up to it and smack it. They can hide it pretty well. You can hide it with your practices and not going as long. But there’s no question that missing the games that he missed and those type of things bothered him.

But he’s going to be a very good player and he’s just got to continue to learn and we got to continue to try to help him get better.

 

 

One comment

  1. Dustin this is why I was asking in chat Wednesday about guys leaving and the future. Because I KNEW our present was hopeless. They played like dogs and got the result they deserved. Too bad for Will and Yogi though as they work their tail off. CTC brought us out of the darkness but he is as lost as that 777 they are looking for.

    So now where do we go FG? You kept giving him extensions. Even if Brad Stevens was available we have no money to buy him out. Although OSD would kick in $20 to start the fund. CTC is a great guy but not an X’s and O’s guy.

    Maybe now we can figure out who is staying and going.

    OSD is gone…………………

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