BOZICH | Indiana blossoms with Crean's $3 gardening gloves - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana blossoms with Crean's $3 gardening gloves

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Indiana center Thomas Bryant (31) celebrated the Hoosiers' win over Northwestern Saturday.. Indiana center Thomas Bryant (31) celebrated the Hoosiers' win over Northwestern Saturday..

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Tom Crean was neither pleased nor impressed with the way his Indiana University basketball team was handling the basketball.

Crean was not booing the sloppy turnovers, but let’s be honest: Indiana fans were. It wasn't unusual for IU to kick the ball away 20 times. No wonder they lost three times by Dec. 2.

So Crean invested in items: A box of $3 cloth gardening gloves and a stopwatch.

He told his players they needed to show him that they could dribble, pass and catch the basketball crisply while wearing those cheap gloves. Keep wearing them and figure it out. Get control of the ball and yourself. 

When they didn’t? They ran. Crean gave his guys a limit of 12 turnovers in road games and nine during home games. Exceed those totals and it was time for a running drill that Crean cooked up at Marquette. He calls it "17."

Get on the line and sprint. From one side of the court to the other. Touch the line 17 times. Do it in less than 65 seconds.

“Coach has been telling us that for us to be a great team and for us to be able to win, we can’t turn the ball over,” said Yogi Ferrell, IU’s senior point guard. "We had three (line drills) in practice once. It was a tough day."

This is the way the Hoosiers have responded: In their last two games Indiana has delivered more three-point field goals than turnovers.

They made 13 threes and only 10 turnovers while defeating Northwestern, 89-57, Saturday in Assembly Hall. It was Indiana’s 12th straight win overall and seventh straight in Big Ten play. Still, they owe their coach one "17."

Somebody get Calbert Cheaney on the phone. Send a text message to Damon Bailey.

Ask your mother or uncle how those guys played college basketball. They’ve been gone from Indiana University for more than two decades.

That’s how long it’s been since the Hoosiers had won seven consecutive Big Ten games – 1993.

Victor Oladipo couldn’t do it. Cody Zeller couldn’t do it. Eric Gordon couldn’t do it. Jared Jeffries, A. J. Guyton or Brian Evans? No, no, no.

Ferrell, Collin Hartman, Thomas Bryant and the rest of Crean’s surging team have now done it.

“I knew we had a lot of talent,” IU forward Max Bielfeldt said. “With this little streak, we’ve had, I think it’s beginning to show.”

Consider this victory additional proof the Hoosiers are sharing the ball, shooting the ball and defending the ball better than anybody watching in Bankers Life Fieldhouse thought was possible when Indiana fans were booing this team as it trailed Notre Dame by 16 points in the second half five weeks ago.

Even John Mellencamp’s latest Uptown Girl, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl Christie Brinkley, was up and cheering for nearly two hours.

“The more simple we can make our passing and the more active we are in our cutting, the better we are,” Crean said. “These guys were too good to be giving the ball back like that.”

Take another look at the standings: The Hoosiers sit a half-game ahead of Iowa (6-0) atop the Big Ten.

The grind of the schedule awaits, beginning with a trip to Wisconsin Tuesday night. IU has only beaten two teams – Ohio State and Nebraska – currently in the first division of the Big Ten.

But that’s a story for next week.

Today this team looks capable and determined to slug it out with Iowa, Maryland, Purdue and Michigan State at the top of the league. Which team scored the season-high point totals against Illinois (103) and Northwestern (89)? Indiana.

"They've made 32 threes the last two games," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "I mean, it's incredible shooting."

“I feel like we have a lot of confidence, especially on the defensive end,” Ferrell said.

Some teams have to manufacture the No Respect card. Indiana was drawing that card from both sides of the deck after the Hoosiers finished sixth in the Maui Invitational and followed that performance with a 20-point loss at Duke.

This game was similar to the last two that Indiana played at home when the Hoosiers overpowered Ohio State and Illinois. They led 10-0. They never trailed.

Shooting? James Blackmon Jr. is out for the season after surgery on his right knee, but Crean has shooters. Seven players scored from distance, four days after nine IU players made three-point shots in the Illinois victory Tuesday.

That list included the usual suspects – Robert Johnson, Ferrell and Hartman all scored three times from distance. It also included two unusual suspects – freshman forward Juwan Morgan as well as senior walk-on Ryan Burton, the transfer from Bellarmine. (Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt were the others.)

In its last two home games, Indiana has made half of its three-point field goal attempts – 19 of 36 against Illinois and 13 of 28 against Northwestern.

“It’s amazing the level the confidence gets when the ball goes in the basket and when their teammates want it to go in the basket,” Crean said.

Their scoring was balanced. Ferrell led IU with 17 points, but seven others scored at least seven. Their defense showed no similarities to the defense they played over the opening month of the season. For the seventh consecutive game, Indiana limited a Big Ten opponent to less than one point per possession.

Is there more work to do?

There is always more work to do. Consistently reducing turnovers. They'll run extra for their coach in the next practice.

“It’s all mindset,” Hartman said. “You’ve got to come in being aggressive. The Big Ten is a tough league.”

Wisconsin awaits. The Hoosiers defeated the Badgers, 59-58, in Assembly Hall on Jan. 5. But Indiana has lost 13 consecutive games in Madison, a streak that started with Bob Knight, accelerated with Mike Davis, continued with Kelvin Sampson and has not disappeared under Crean.

Another chance for Indiana to break out the gloves.

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