What does this mean for the Hoosiers?
IU is now tied with Michigan State for the lead in the Big Ten. The two teams will face each other again in eight days in East Lansing. IU is at home for its next two game, which are against Nebraska and Purdue.
The new polls have come out today as well. Indiana remains at #1 in the AP Poll, but they are #2 in the Coaches Poll. It's not surprising that IU is still ranked so highly after a 1-1 week due to the high number of losses by teams in the top five. The rankings are essentially meaningless because college basketball has so many more games than college football, but it is still nice to see the Hoosiers at the top of the pack.
There will be few wins bigger than this one against Ohio State for Indiana. The Hoosiers still have three very difficult road games left in the Big Ten , which are against #8 Michigan State, Minnesota, and #4 Michigan. They also still have to play Ohio State again. Its clear that wins, especially road wins, are at a premium in the Big Ten, and the Hoosier will finish with a winning road record for the first time since 2008.
More important might be that IU showed that they know how to put a team away and close out a game.
Coach Tom Crean stated after the game that he felt the team had played poorly against Michigan over a week ago. Crean said that they missed a lot opportunities to put the Wolverines away. They clearly didn't get the message and gave up a 14-3 run late against Illinois that ended with the buzzer beater.
"From the very beginning after we lost the other night, the biggest thing for our team was we were not going to spend a lot of our time worrying about bouncing back," coach Tom Crean said. "I'm proud of the way these guys responded from a very tough loss."
Indiana did an exceptional job closing out the game. They were able to use 25 or more seconds of clock on multiple possession late in the game while also getting quality shots.
Here's what fans can take away from yesterday's game:
- Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo will not be Hoosiers for very much longer. These two players went back and forth for who was going to lead the Hoosiers in scoring all afternoon. Most NBA draft boards have these two in the top 25. Zeller is consistently in the top five and Oladipo has been quickly climbing the ranks. There is a chance that the two would decide to return, but it is looking more and more unlikely.
- IU's "Big Three" did all of the Hoosiers scoring: Zeller, Oladipo, and Christian Watford combined for 70 of Indiana's 81 points. These three are clearly IUs best offensive players, and it makes perfect sense to consistently feed them the ball. However, they will need support down the stretch. IU needs more production from the bench and for Jordan Hulls to finally show up for a big game. Yogi Ferrell spent much of the game on the bench due to foul trouble, but there were times he had an open shot and simply didn't pull the trigger.
- The Hoosiers dominated from the free throw line. IU attempted 28 free throws and connected on 22 of them. While it's true that many of these attempts came when Ohio State was down in the final minutes and had to foul, the fact remains that Indiana was still able to cash them in and close out the game. IU is exceptional at getting to the line and at times needs to force the issue.
- IU finally took care of the ball. The Hoosiers only turned the ball over eight times. IU turned it over 14 times against Illinois, which turned into 28 points for the Illini. Even when they did turn the ball over, they were much more composed on defense, and they didn't give up easy shots. As prolific as its offense is, Indiana has been wild with the ball at times and they will have to limit turnovers if they want to win the Big Ten.
- IU took one too many bad three-pointers. The Hoosiers were 7-of-18 from the arc. Watford was 4-for-5. Hulls was chronically bad, hitting just 1-of-7. It's in the Hoosiers' best interests to try and use Zeller and Watford for mid-rage shots.
This was a solid all-around effort from the Hoosiers. This game should go a long ways towards silencing those who doubt Crean as a coach, too
What Crean did to get his team motivated and headed in the right direction in the short turnaround following the loss Illinois was very impressive. This team shouldn't struggle for motivation, but when they do, Crean has been able to get the team focused and playing at a high level again.
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