Indiana moved to 6-1 by thumping Evansville Tuesday. The Hoosiers play Syracuse next week.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Syracuse is next for the Indiana University basketball team.
You know what that means. A string of talk-show conversations about the game the Hoosiers lost to the Orange in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Replays of Indiana missing 12 of 15 three-point shots while exiting the tournament as a Number One seed. The IU starting guards getting outscored by what sounds like the projected record of the next national champion -- 38-0.
And endless talk about how Indiana will attack the trademark 2-3 Syracuse zone in the Carrier Dome next Tuesday night. The 'Cuse is unbeaten and will play Baylor in the title game of the Maui Invitational Wednesday.
Indiana moved to 6-1 by defeating Evansville, 77-46, in Assembly Hall Tuesday night. What Indiana does on offense against Syracuse next week will be interesting. But it won't be as important as what the Hoosiers do on defense and the backboards.
IU started the night ranked third -- behind Kentucky and Pittsburgh -- in rebounding margin. The Hoosiers are not third any more. They outrebounded Evansville by 28. IU is now plus-18 on the glass this season. Kentucky is plus-16.7, Pitt's number has dropped to 12.5.
The Purple Aces are the third team Indiana has limited to less than 60 points this season. In fact, IU has done it in back-to-back games, giving up only 59 in a loss to Connecticut last week.
"They're good," said Evansville coach Marty Simmons, who is also a former IU player. "I think they're as athletic as any team I've ever seen play here. They get up and down the floor extremely easy. They pursue the offensive glass very, very well, and they have a lot of weapons."
Indiana is doing it differently this season. Here are Five Ways IU did it in the 31-point victory.
Evansville entered the game ranked 16th in the nation in scoring, averaging 90.2 points per game. The Purple Aces scored 100 against Valparaiso last week, and their guard, D.J. Balentine averaged better than 29 per game as Evansville started 5-0. They were the nation's top three-point shooting team.
Tuesday night Evansville missed 12 straight shots before making a layup 6 minutes and 7 seconds into the game. It looked as if they were playing three against a very tall six.
Evansville started the game ranked second to only Kansas in field-goal percentage, making better than 56 percent of its shots. The Jayhawks can exhale. They don't have to worry about losing the top spot. Evansville made only 16 of 55 shots, less than 30 percent. Balentine scored 14, less than half his average. Evansville missed 13 of 16 threes.
"I thought the way we defended, got us going offensively, and that's the most important thing," IU coach Tom Crean said. "We got our deflections back up where they needed to be, at 60, and we had guys really impact the game."
VONLEH DOUBLE DIPS AGAIN
Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh matched Kentucky freshman Julius Randle through IU's first four games by posting double-doubles. His streak ended in Madison Square Garden last week.
But Vonleh started a new streak against the Purple Aces. He needed only 19 minutes and six field-goal attempts to score 13 points and collect a dozen rebounds.
"They were trying to send two guys on me," Vonleh said. "Just working my way through and just going hard after the rebounds."
Vonleh, who is 6 feet 10 and 240 pounds, added a new item to his scouting profile – he made his first three-point shot, squaring up and scoring from the top of the key in the second half.
He's more LaMarcus Aldridge than Kevin Durant, but Vonleh has solid shooting form. It won't be his final three-pointer this season.
HOWARD FOLLOWED BY HOLLOWELL
Midway through the first half a remarkable name was trending nationally on Twitter – Jeff Howard.
Who's Jeff Howard?
He's no relation on Ron Howard or Howard Stern. He's a 6-8 walk-on forward from Westfield, Ind., who scored a total of seven points in his first three seasons for the Hoosiers.
Crean moved sophomore Jeremy Hollowell out of the starting lineup Tuesday night. He moved Howard in.
Howard delivered. Defense. Screens. Passing. Hustle. All the things that Crean values.
Howard was on the floor as the Hoosiers surged to their 12-0 lead. He played 15 minutes and made his only shot.
"I just try to talk a lot, being a senior, helping some guys out on the floor, defensively, a lot of stuff like that," Howard said. "Just energy, little things. Obviously I'm not going to score a lot of points but I had to defend, rebound and talk."
How did Hollowell respond to playing off the bench?
Message delivered. He might have delivered his best performance of the season. He made half of his eight field goal attempts and two of five three-pointers, while scrambling for three rebounds and two steals. He finished with 18 points, a career high.
"My shot was falling," Hollowell said. "Attack the basket to get to the free throw line, seeing the extra work payoff on my jump shot, I've been getting a lot of reps, seeing that payoff. I feel like that's really helping a lot. That's pretty much it."
"He's a dynamic player," Simmons said. "He's long and he's a good passer. He can play multiple positions for them. But they're all like that."
This Indiana team does not have the offensive firepower of the last two seasons, but the Hoosiers have been dominant on the backboards.
Kentucky ranked first nationally in rebounding margin at better than 18 per game, but Indiana, ranked third, eliminated the gap. The Hoosiers outrebounded Evansville, 58 to 30.
Consider this: IU missed 35 shots, but rebounded 19 of them.
PAGING HULLS, WATFORD, OLADIPO
Last season Indiana was one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation.
This season the Hoosiers are still working on it. Think about this: Through the first seven games last season, Indiana made 56 three-point shots. That was one of the strengths of a lineup that featured Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo.
In seven games this season, Indiana has now made 30 three-point shots. The Hoosiers were 4 for 16 Tuesday night. For the season, they're only 30 of 107 – 28 percent.
And the Syracuse zone is next. Indiana will have to beat the Orange with defense and rebounding. The Hoosiers can do that.