BOZICH | Another Tweet Crean won't read: IU atop Big Ten standings
With less than two weeks left in the Big Ten season, Indiana moved into first place by defeating Purdue, 77-73. Not that IU coach Tom Crean will read about it.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – In a world where it’s become sinful to wait 80 seconds to deliver a judgment, imagine asking somebody to wait 80 days.
Tweet this: It’s not going to happen.
But patience is what Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean requested after Indiana took a 20-point punch at Duke on Dec. 2, sliding to 5-3, well outside the national Top 25.
“It's eight games in, and I think we'll get better," Crean said. "That's the bottom line."
No 14 words ever inspired more Twitter trolling.
Crean and the Hoosiers were given their last rites by Bleacher Report, ESPN.com, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The O'Reilly Factor, The New Yorker and The Times of London. CBSSports.com thought that Crean’s path to the Exit Door was so inevitable that two guys from that web site put Crean on their Hot Seat lists. You didn’t have to cup your ears to hear booing in Assembly Hall.
Crean said that he has not looked at Twitter since November 2014. The app has been removed from his phone.
Tweet this: Who’s laughing now?
Eighty days the Duke defeat, here is the latest Big Ten script: Indiana has surged to the top of the basketball standings, a half-game ahead of Iowa. The Hoosiers are 12-3 in the league and 22-6 overall.
The Hoosiers’ 12th conference victory was their most raucous Big Ten victory. They took down Purdue for the first time since Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo left town. On a night when IU led by as many as 19, they defeated the Boilermakers, 77-73.
There's a lesson in patience here, not that many will embrace it. No Twitter clicks in that. Move along and put another name on the Hot Seat. The show of impatience must go on.
“Man, it’s great,” said Yogi Ferrell, the team’s senior point guard. “I felt like we had a couple of lulls, a couple of losses here and there … We stayed with it … I just feel that connectivity is there for us right now.”
Get this: An Indiana team that ranks last in the Big Ten in turnovers, committed four, 10 fewer than the Hoosiers’ season average. Crean said last month that he made his players do extra running when they threw the ball away more than nine times during home games.
Somebody asked Ferrell if Crean needed to run when the Hoosiers come in well below the goal.
“We’ve seen him run a few times and it doesn’t look pretty,” said Ferrell.
“I’m not running,” Crean said with a laugh after the game.
“Experience playing in these types of games and not trying to make the home run pass,” Ferrell said.
“I can’t answer that in a proclamation because it could turn around for us, right?” Crean said. “We want to play fast. We don’t want to play reckless … Just making the simple pass.”
Ferrell stopped the conversation about his shooting slump by making three shots from distance while scoring 18 points. Troy Williams led the Hoosiers with 19, contributing four steals without committing a turnover in 34 dazzling minutes. After failing to score at Michigan State a week ago, Williams responded by playing two of his best games against Nebraska and the Boilermakers. He joined the 1,000-point club Saturday night.
“When Troy plays like that, he’s basically unstoppable,” Ferrell said. “When he plays well, he basically gets lost in the game.”
“Just stay on the attack,” Williams said.
Max Bielfeldt, the fifth-year senior that John Beilein ran off at Michigan, scored 10. Seven IU players, including all five starters, made three-point shots. Collin Hartman survived four personal fouls and four stitches in his chin.
The only lingering negative was the injury that guard Robert Johnson suffered to his right foot in the final four minutes. Crean said that he was uncertain of the seriousness of the injury or if Johnson would be available at Illinois on Thursday. He was spotted leaving Assembly Hall wearing a protective boot and using crutches.
“It’s amazing what happens to you when you stay focused on your defense and rebounding,” Crean said.
Purdue coach Matt Painter arrived with a solid game plan. Throw the basketball inside to A.J. Hammons, his mammoth senior center. Indiana tried to defend Hammons with Bielfeldt. Crean did not want his freshman center, Thomas Bryant, to commit early fouls.
Hammons is four inches taller than Bielfeldt. He is also 10 pounds heavier. Painter could not have written a better script.
On Purdue’s first possession, Hammons scored from 15 feet. On Purdue’s second possession, Hammons scored from 12 feet. On the Boilermakers fourth possession, Hammons scored from 14 feet.
At that rate, Hammons was on track to score 72 points and Purdue was going to win by 24 points.
Then Indiana started making three-point shots. Then also knocked away passes and turned the turnovers into points. Crean credited Williams for inspiring a defense that kept delivering deflections.
How much did the turnovers hurt the Boilermakers? Purdue made seven of its first nine field-goal attempts and trailed, 20-15.
Indiana could not play any better than the Hoosiers played in the first 14 minutes. Not only was Crean’s team defending as well as they have defended, they did not handle the basketball as if they were playing in the losers’ bracket of an AAU Tournament. Not one turnover in the first 17 minutes, one in the first half on a charging call.
When Troy Williams raced down the court after Purdue turnover for a thunderous left-handed dunk, Indiana led 32-20. Painter showed his concern. Although Hammons had two fouls, the coach put his center in the game and Purdue sliced Indiana’s lead to 35-28 at halftime.
In the second half, Indiana pushed its lead to 59-40 before the Boilermakers rallied with a string of three-point shots. A three-pointer by Dakota Mathias pushed Purdue within 75-73 with 36 seconds to play.
The victory was not secure until Hammons was called for goal-tending a drive by Ferrell on the left side of the goal with 7.1 seconds to play.
“A lot of good basketball from a lot of guys,” Crean said.
Back-to-back road games await the Hoosiers, Thursday night at Illinois and March 1 at Iowa. The Hoosiers do not play their final home game for two weeks. Maryland visits Assembly Hall on March 6 at 4:30 p.m. The Terps are third in the Big Ten with a 10-4 record.
The Big Ten Tournament, booked for Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, is the next time IU and Purdue can play. There is no return game in West Lafayette this season.
Remember the lesson of this season: Be patient. It could happen.
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