BOZICH | Five Takeaways as Indiana preps for Bellarmine by defea - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Five Takeaways as Indiana preps for Bellarmine by defeating Hope

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Indiana won its basketball opener against Hope College Tuesday night. Indiana won its basketball opener against Hope College Tuesday night.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) — Thomas Bryant is the only starter from Indiana’s season-ending loss to North Carolina available to Tom Crean this season. The $45 million renovation project to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall isn’t the only change at IU.

Bryant had four new starting lineup sidekicks when the Hoosiers dispatched Division III Hope College, 98-65, Tuesday night.

There was guard James Blackmon Jr., healthy and frisky again after missing the final three months of last season with knee surgery. Credit him with 15 points without forcing anything.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for ever since I was hurt,” Blackmon said.

There were sophomores OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan — with Anunoby parked on the wing while Morgan showed (as Crean promised) he can utilize his fluid 6-foot-7 frame on the perimeter and at the rim. Credit Morgan with a team-best 12 rebounds.

The fifth spot was the one that made Twitter flutter. Not veteran guard Robert Johnson, who started as a freshman. Not junior Josh Newkirk, the transfer from Pittsburgh.

To win the starting lineup pool, you had to guess Zach McRoberts, who prepped for last season by playing intramural basketball on the Bloomington campus.

Don’t be totally fooled. McRoberts was a 2014 Indiana all-star at Carmel High School, the younger brother of NBA veteran Josh McRoberts and a guy who played his freshman season on scholarship at Vermont.

“I wouldn’t read anything into the any of the lineups,” Crean said. “It could change again Saturday.”

Make a note of this: Indiana outscored Hope 60-16 when Johnson, the team’s junior guard, played. 

On with the show with Five Takeaways From Indiana’s Prep For Bellarmine.

1. OG On Fire — A year ago Anunoby was considered the third-best freshman in Crean’s three-man recruiting class, ranked the 280th best player in the consensus Class of 2015 rankings by 247Sports.

This season you can find Anunoby ranked the 16th best prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft by

Which is it?

A guy who’d be lucky to scratch the starting rotation by his junior season or a guy who will never see his junior season?

Take Option B.

“OG spends as much time as anybody we’ve had here in the gym,” Crean said. “If that keeps up, he’ll be in a really great place.”

Adding to the solid inside and defensive game he showed last season, Anunoby flashed a new weapon — a reliable three-point shot.

He took seven. He made four. “It’s been a big focus, adding another element to his game,” Morgan said. “It opens up the floor for us.”

He led the Hoosiers in scoring the entire game — until the final minute. Anunoby finished with 16 points, but his decision-making needs work.

Five turnovers subtracted from his effectiveness.

But the guy is a worker bee. Anunoby was on the floor, refining his jump shot, more than two hours before the game.

2. Looking For Mr. Shot Clock — With Troy Williams starting for the Memphis Grizzlies and Yogi Ferrell about to start a season in the NBA Developmental League, Indiana needs a guy who can make something out of a nothing possession.

Williams and Ferrell could do that. They were veterans, poised and productive when it was time to attack.

Who’s the new guy who will go get a bucket late in the shot clock?

Hard to say. Blackmon Jr. is the safest guess. He’s always shown the ability to score. But that remains an attribute this team must develop.

Indiana did turn the ball over 18 times while trying to ignite the offense. That needs work.

“We just need to hit a lot of singles,” Morgan said. “We don’t need the home run plays.”

3. Newkirk Watch — Some expected Newkirk to move into the point guard role. After playing two seasons at Pittsburgh, Newkirk practiced with the Hoosiers last season and drew praise for leadership and his defensive work.

His offensive game?

To be determined.

It’s still to be determined. Newkirk missed his only two shots, scoring two points in 24 minutes. But he led Indiana with seven assists (against a single turnover) and showed a willingness to pressure the basketball.

Crean likes guards who protect the ball and defend. Newkirk qualifies.

4. Freshman Report — The freshmen class helped turn Indiana’s season around last season. The freshmen won’t be asked to deliver in that role this season. I’d be surprised if any of Crean’s four first-year players made the starting lineup.

But they’ll contribute, especially guard Devonte Green and frontcourt player DeRon Davis. 

Green shows confidence in everything he does, including the selection of his number. He will wear No. 11, the same one Ferrell wore the last four season as well as the one Isiah Thomas wore while leading IU to the 1981 NCAA title.

He’s quick, an eager passer and a confident shooter. Basketball is stamped in Green’s DNA. He’s a New York kid as well as the younger brother of Spurs guard Danny Green. Green played like he knew he belonged, making seven of nine shots, including both of his three-point attempts while leading IU with 19 points.

“I felt like I belonged,” Green said. 

“He’s just aggressive offensively and defensively and that opens things up for him,” Blackmon said. “It’s pretty rare (for a freshman) but when you really work at your game and prepare and put in a lot of time, you’re ready.”

Davis is a notch behind, in part, because, unlike Green, he did not arrive on campus until the last week of August, missing summer workouts. His conditioning has lagged, but Davis has good hands, wide shoulders and a determination to finish shots. He played only nine minutes, scoring six points. 

Curtis Jones, another freshman guard, had seven points. Grant Gelon, the third freshman guard, failed to score.

Junior college transfer Freddie McSwain has practiced, but is not cleared for games while his knee heals. McRoberts started each half, but did not attempt a shot in 13 minutes.

5. Bellarmine Next — The Hoosiers return to Assembly Hall Saturday to play Bellarmine University. Indiana defeated Bellarmine, 73-62, last season.

Former Bellarmine star Jake Thelen joined Crean’s staff as a graduate assistant coach last spring.

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