Tuesday, November 09, 2010

FINAL (OT): Indiana 78, Ferris State 65 [RECAP]

As I am sure many of know, or can tell by the fact that this game had to go to overtime, Monday night's exhibition game against Ferris State was not the Hoosiers' best effort. After 36 minutes of slow, sloppy, and unenthused play on both sides of the court, the Hoosiers were recharged and the forced overtime thanks to some HUGE play by freshman Victor Oladipo. Victor hit a 3 pointer and got fouled with just 10 seconds left to play, then converted the 4-point play to tie the game. Then on the ensuing Ferris State possession, when a defensive breakdown left Kenny Brown with a wide open lane Oladipo came from seemingly out of nowhere to swat the shot away with just 1.7 seconds left. After a timeout, a game winning shot was ruled no good and regulation ended with the two teams tied at 61. The Hoosiers carried their new found energy and momentum into overtime, jumping out to a quick 12 point lead that effectively ended the game. The final score after 45 minutes of play was 78-65.

Obviously, there are a lot of bad things to talk about after last night. A lot of the same problems that occurred throughout the past two seasons creeped back into the Hoosiers play Monday. Indiana was out-rebounded 41-40, and that deficit was much larger go into the final 5 minutes of regulation. The offense was very sloppy all night and the Hoosiers could not get into a good flow until there were just 4 minutes left on the clock. Too many possessions ended by settling for long range shots and those shots were just not falling for Indiana. Maurice Creek looked to be moving around better on his knee but shot 6-18 from the field, including 3-13 from beyond the arc. The fact that Creek even had to shoot 13 3-pointers in one game is bad enough, but all of those shots came in the first half. Simply put, the Hoosiers did not come into this game ready to play and the Bulldogs did. Ferris State controlled the tempo for much of this game and were visibly stronger and faster than the Hoosiers were. Bad decision making and poor shooting had Indiana down for nearly the entire 40 minutes of regulation and if it weren't for Victor Oladipo really stepping up at the end of the game this would have been a loss for the Hoosiers. Outside of Oladipo (14 pts 9 reb) and Christian Watford (25 pts 7 reb), no one really stood out in a positive way. Tom Pritchard fouled out after recording just 6 points and 1 rebound, as did Derek Elston (4 points, 0-3 FT). The Hoosiers turned the ball over 20 times and forced just 25 turnovers on defense. Sophomore Jordan Hulls had 6 assists but turned it over 4 times, mostly on errant passes. On defense, Indiana was completely overwhelmed by Division II Preseason Player of the Year Justin Keenan, who dropped 21 points and grabbed 6 rebounds before fouling out with 1:06 left in the second half. Keenan coming out of the game was critical to Indiana making a run at the end of the game.

However, we here at the Windy City Hoosier Source want to end this recap on a more positive note. There are some things to be optimistic about after this game, like the team shooting an improved 82% from the free throw line (23-28), including an impressive 12 of 12 from Christian Watford. Speaking of Watford, he proved for the second straight game that he can blossom playing at the 3 position. Although he shot 6-16 from the field, he was often the only bright spot on a dismal 36 minute offense. He also had 3 offensive rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in the game. Oladipo showed a fire at the end that was non-existent throughout much of the game. His will to go out with a bang and get a win was just what the Hoosiers desperately needed. He brings a swag to this team that simply cannot be matched and has already become a fan favorite for his athleticism and dunking ability. It is good to see that is a well-rounded player that is fully capable of contributing in more ways than one. 
Another thing that I noticed was the play of Jeremiah Rivers. He didn't fill up the stat sheet by any means, but he certainly played within himself and took on the type of role that he should be in this season. He didn't try to do too much like he often did last season, he just focused on being a team player and solid defender. This is exactly what we need from our lone senior. 

In the end, this was a bad game for the Hoosiers but there is a lot of good that can and will come from it. The end of regulation and overtime showed just what this team is capable of. When you play hard and have the desire to win games, you will. The late comeback also showed that if you want to beat anybody you are going to have to play a full 40 minutes. I give a lot of credit to Indiana for fighting it out all the way to end and regaining a win that they should have had all night. I don't think that last year's team would have had the drive to play till the end the way the current Hoosiers did this evening. I think it is safe to say that the Hoosiers have gotten their wake-up call and it is a good thing that it happened before the actual start of the season. They should now know that, no matter where they are and no matter who is on the other bench, they have to play every game hard and fight it out to get wins. This young team got a real taste of what its like to be on the losing side of a game and that is the kind of experience that you can't get in practice. It was a great tuneup for the season opener Friday night against Florida Gulf Coast. Coach Crean and staff know exactly what their players need to work on this week to prepare for the real thing and you can bet that after an especially rough week of practice you will see an entirely different team step out onto the court on Friday.
One final point: The Hoosiers played without the services of Verdell Jones and Guy-Marc Michel. This is something that you can simply not overlook when evaluating Monday night's performance. Jones is undoubtedly the leader of this team and last season the offense was at its best when he was in the game to run things. Indiana looked completely lost on offense for much of the game and that is something that simply does not happen when Verdell is on the court. Jones' play will help the offense get into gear, cut down on turnovers and bad passes and ultimately lead to more points as Verdell is someone that can make things happen when he's got the ball. Missing Michel is huge, as well, because these exhibition games are the perfect situations for Guy to get used to the college game. Guy will be a presence in the paint, whether he puts up big numbers or not, and will make opponents think twice about driving to the lane. He showed some flashes of good play during the Night of the Living Red and the current investigation into his eligibility is effectively putting a halt on his progress. Hopefully Verdell will be ready to go for the game on Friday and we also hope that Michel's situation is cleared up soon so he can start getting some experience during Indiana's particularly weak non-conference schedule.

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