BOZICH | Did losing to Louisville toughen Indiana? Ask Tom Crean - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Did losing to Louisville toughen Indiana? Ask Tom Crean

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Indiana's defense and rebounding has improved since Tom Crean's team lost to Louisville. Indiana's defense and rebounding has improved since Tom Crean's team lost to Louisville.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Louisville beat Indiana by 20 points after the Hoosiers led by four early in the second half. That was two weeks ago in New York City.

The Cardinals punished the Hoosiers on the boards. They dogged the Hoosiers into 19 turnovers. Louisville created ways to take 18 more shots than Indiana.

Indiana defeated New Orleans, 79-59, in Assembly Hall Monday night. This victory followed the game the Hoosiers won against a Top 25 Butler team Saturday in Indianapolis, which followed another easy victory for Indiana. The Hoosiers were not favored to win the Butler game, but did.

Indiana sits at 10-2 with one final non-conference game against Georgetown Saturday in Madison Square Garden. They'll return to New York City on Christmas night.

Losing to Louisville has helped Tom Crean coach his team.

“Playing that game against Louisville has made us better,” Crean said. “Louisville plays so hard that it teaches you how hard you have to play to keep improving.”

Crean has always preached that. But the Louisville game provided a teaching moment. Coaches love teaching moments.

Indiana has outrebounded the last three teams it has played. It's the only three-game stretch that has happened this season.

None of Indiana's last three opponents have made 40 percent of their shots. It's the only three-game stretch of the season that has happened, too.

Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Indiana's junior center, had a marvelous first half against Louisville. He disappeared into Madison Square Garden during the second half.

Over the last three games, Mosquera-Perea has averaged 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. It's his best three-game stretch of the season.

“There weren't a lot of positives in the Louisville game,” Crean said. “But Hanner walking out of the game knowing he could score and knowing that he could score in one-on-one situations against length and good people, really helped him.

“I think he's responded since that game in the sense that of that being a positive and the fact that he wasn't as aggressive as he could be. He wasn't as aggressive on the glass as he could have been, he wasn't as aggressive down low as he could have been.”

Against New Orleans, Mosquera-Perea had 12 points, six boards and four blocks. Aggressive is a word you could use to describe his play. Yogi Ferrell followed his 20-point game against Butler with 17 points, making three of four three-pointers. He moved past Jared Jeffries into 47th place on the school's all-time scoring list. James Blackmon Jr. scored an easy 14 points. He remains the highest scoring freshman (17.6) in the power five leagues.

Mosquera-Perea will have to be aggressive – and relentless – Saturday. He will be asked to defend Josh Smith. He is 6 feet 10 and 350 pounds. He plays center for the Hoyas.

A win against Georgetown would help the Hoosiers in December – and in March. If you look at the entire Big Ten, Indiana has played like a team that will be scrambling in the knot of teams that could finish anywhere from second to 11th in the league.

Call the roll of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that Big Ten basketball has delivered during the non-conference season.

Pull up a chair. Pour something to drink. This is going to take some time.

Texas Southern 71, Michigan State 64; New Jersey Institute of Technology 72, Michigan 70; Incarnate Word 74, Nebraska 73.

Purdue against anybody – most recently, Gardner Webb 89, Purdue 84 Monday night in West Lafayette.

Wisconsin couldn't handle Duke in Madison. Iowa ranks no better than the third best team in its state.

Minnesota, Ohio State and Indiana all whiffed against Louisville.

I won't include Rutgers and Northwestern in the discussion.

What's it mean for the league? I've leave that to the big picture specialists, although there's no doubt the league is several quarts low on star power this season.

Here's a more relevant local question: What's it mean for Indiana?

Opportunity.

Win that one in New York and Tom Crean's team will have victories over SMU, Pittsburgh, Butler and the Hoyas. Joe Lunardi, master of the brackets for ESPN, currently ranks Indiana as the last team out of his projected 68-team NCAA Tournament field.

A year ago, Indiana won 10 of 13 games before starting Big Ten play. None of those 10 wins came against teams ranked in the top 75 in Ken Pomeroy's computer ratings. SMU and Butler are top 40 teams. Pitt sits at 68. Georgetown is 30th.

This Indiana team is better than the Indiana team that missed the NCAA Tournament last season. The 2015 Big Ten is not as formidable as the 2014 Big Ten.

Indiana could not finish the 40-minute assignment against Louisville the last time the Hoosiers visited Madison Square Garden. On Saturday they get another opportunity in the world's most famous arena.

“Everything needs to get better,” Crean said. “I know that sounds corny and cliché-ish. But it does.

“The moment you think, especially with a young team, that you've got something worked out, is the moment it goes away … Everything has got to continue to improve.”

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