TSX REPORT: Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana's defensive efforts have been inconsistent at best, and the Hoosiers spent the time leading up to their meeting with Minnesota concentrating on improving their awareness on "D." The effort paid off despite a loss to the Golden Gophers, but it could set the tone for how IU plays going forward.

GETTING INSIDE

   Indiana's defensive efforts have been inconsistent at best, and the Hoosiers spent the time leading up to their meeting with Minnesota concentrating on improving their awareness on "D." The effort paid off despite a loss to the Golden Gophers, but it could set the tone for how IU plays going forward.

The Hoosiers were much more disciplined vs. Minnesota, and that discipline will come in handy vs. Northwestern on Jan. 9. The Wildcats' patient offense can wear down the best of teams, and IU must build on the confidence it gained in Minneapolis.

How do the Hoosiers do that? By continuing to battle for every loose ball and play closer to their opponents when faced with one-on-one situations. IU plays a lot of zone to make up for its lack of size and athleticism, but when an opponent catches the ball on the perimeter, the Hoosiers need to get in his jersey and not give him much room to move.

Some of that defensive aspect can be learned in practice, as the Minnesota game showed. The rest has to come from the players themselves. It's up to the Hoosiers to look in the mirror and focus on being the best defenders they can possibly be. It also will be important for the Hoosiers to push each other to keep their intensity high on defense.

That said, IU's five-game losing streak can be a slippery slope. The Hoosiers have been through long losing skids before, and the players have to avoid falling into the trap of thinking, "Here we go again."

They can push through the pain of the losses by focusing on defense and realizing that if they take care of business on that end, great things can happen. Northwestern will present a challenge, but the Wildcats could also represent a launching point for the return of Hoosier basketball.

   BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Sophomore Christian Watford is the Hoosiers' leading scorer at better than 16 points a game, but he has a nasty habit of falling into wicked shooting funks. As a freshman, Watford suffered through three shooting slumps -- one of four games, when Watford went 12-of-42 (26.8) shooting; one of three games, when he went 7-of-33 (.212);, and, finally, one of six games to close the season when he made just 16 of 59 (.271) shots from the field. Heading into the Minnesota game, Watford was shooting 42.1 percent from the field, but his 2-of-13 performance is the fourth game in another sorry shooting streak. He has made just 11 of 42 (.262) shots in his last four games, and the Hoosiers need him to snap out of his slump to have a shot vs. Northwestern.

NOTES, QUOTES

   --Indiana lost its third straight Big Ten game and its fifth straight overall Tuesday in a 67-63 loss to Minnesota. The Hoosiers got 25 points off the bench from Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek, but they couldn't overcome a lack of size inside and were outrebounded 44-35. IU lost despite scoring 21 points off 12 Minnesota turnovers, but the Hoosiers allowed the Gophers to shoot 51.9 percent after halftime to let a six-point halftime lead slip away.

   --Indiana's road losing streak through its Jan. 4 loss to Minnesota stands at nine overall and seven in the Big Ten alone. During the Tom Crean Era, IU is 1-18 away from Assembly Hall in conference play, which doesn't bode well for the Hoosiers' trip to Northwestern Jan. 9.

--Junior Verdell Jones III needed just 43 points heading into a Jan. 4 matchup with Minnesota to become the 42nd player in IU history to reach 1,000 points in his career. Considering the talent Indiana has boasted in the past, it's unlikely Jones would have been the scorer he has been had he been on teams with more talent. Instead, Jones is set to crack the 1,000-point mark just better than halfway through his junior season.

--Sophomore Jordan Hulls is becoming more of a vocal leader on the court, and head coach Tom Crean is giving him more responsibility with each passing game. Against Ohio State, he gave Hulls, a 6-foot guard, the responsibility of playing the center position because Hulls was the only remaining Hoosier (IU's big men were in foul trouble) who knew what it took to play the position.

--Freshman Victor Oladipo is finding his comfort zone. He has scored in double figures in his first two Big Ten games, and he has earned a spot in the starting lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Indiana allowed Ohio State to tie an opponent record at Assembly Hall when the Buckeyes drilled 13 three-pointers in OSU's win Dec. 31. The record was set by Northwestern last year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "My father-in-law equates it to third-and-one in football. Third-and-one on defense, it's the hardest play. Third-and-one on offense, it's the hardest play. Well, there are certain plays at the rim that are like that in the course of a game. But third-and-one or third-and-two, however you want to look at it, when it's 2:28 and it's a four point game, we still have to believe that we're going to win the game. And that's what we've got to grow through." -- Tom Crean on the Hoosiers' reaction to crunch time vs. Penn State. Crean's father-in-law is Jack Harbaugh, former head football coach at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME:


--at Northwestern, Jan. 9

KEY MATCHUPS: The Hoosiers haven't enjoyed a lot of success on the road under Tom Crean, and they have especially struggled vs. a scrappy Northwestern squad. NU's John Shurna will be a handful for the Hoosiers thanks to his versatility, and the pressure will be on IU's Christian Watford to lock down on Shurna when the Hoosiers go man-to-man. Northwestern's Michael Thompson will give IU sophomore Jordan Hulls all he can handle, as well, and Hulls has to keep his feet moving to avoid getting beat off the dribble.

FUTURES MARKET: Freshman Will Sheehey hasn't played a big role for the Hoosiers so far this season, averaging just 9.3 minutes a game through Jan. 2. Although he appeared in all 15 games the Hoosiers had played through New Year's Eve, he has only seen time in limited stints. That, however, is about to change. Head coach Tom Crean has said it's time to start developing some depth, and he will start using Sheehey for longer stretches to build the foundation for the future.

Sheehey is athletic and does a lot of things well, but he has to find some consistency. That said, Crean likes Sheehey's dedication to defense, and even before the year started Crean said Sheehey and fellow freshman Victor Oladipo would see plenty of time thanks to their intensity. Sheehey is averaging 4.1 points and is shooting 55.8 percent from the floor.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore G Jordan Hulls is shooting 55.8 percent from the field overall and a sizzling 51.6 percent from three-point range this season through Jan. 4. He has made 7 of 14 3-pointers in conference play this season.

--Senior G Jeremiah Rivers has twice had to be helped to the bench due to injuries in the past month, but he has managed to bounce back both times. The first incident seemed to be because of an ankle problem, but he didn't miss any time, and the second incident came when Rivers was hit in the face on a drive. He returned to that game as well. Rivers' toughness has been questioned by some, but he isn't hurting the Hoosiers by missing too much time.

--Junior F Tom Pritchard is averaging 14.6 minutes a game, but his lack of aggression on offense is a problem for the Hoosiers. He had taken just 19 shots on the season through IU's New Year's Eve game vs. Ohio State, and he is averaging just 1.4 points. He's a liability late in games due to his poor free-throw shooting (1-of-10 on the year from the charity stripe), but he's one of IU's few big men and needs to be on the floor to help defensively. After all, he's IU's leading shot blocker.

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