Crean starts Howard in place of Hollowell

Tom Crean shocked everybody when he started walk-on Jeff Howard in place of Jeremy Hollowell. It worked out for the Hoosiers on Tuesday night.

When the season began, it seemed pretty safe to assume Indiana coach Tom Crean would try a number of different starting lineups throughout the season given the team's youth and inexperience.

But nobody could have predicted Indiana's starting lineup on Tuesday night.

Crean inserted senior walk-on Jeff Howard, who had never started a game, in place of sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell, who had started Indiana's first six games this season.

Prior to Tuesday night's 77-46 victory over Evansville, Howard had played a total of 85 minutes in his four-year career. He logged 15 minutes against the Purple Aces, finishing with two points, three rebounds and an assist.

"I found out before the game I was starting," Howard said afterward. "I've been working hard in practice. Coach did what he did for his reasons, and I just came in and brought to the team what I bring to the team."

Crean said he didn't remove Hollowell from the lineup to light a fire under him. He just thought Howard deserved the start.

"I get to make those decisions," Crean said. "What I looked at over the last few days was a guy that epitomized a guy that we wanted out there in the form of energy, communication and intensity. I thought he did it better than anybody else.

"Everybody's got to be in a play on-demand mode for me. One-and-done is too big of a topic in the country right now and who the starters are is too big of a topic. It's always up for debate on the outside but it's never up for debate on the inside."

In his first game off the bench this season, Hollowell looked quite comfortable. He finished with a career-high 18 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 17 minutes. Hollowell was 8-of-9 at the foul line, and also knocked down two 3-pointers.

Did Crean's decision to start Howard motivate Hollowell?

"Coach made his decision," Hollowell said. "Jeff came in, he did a great job. He capitalized on his opportunity. It was coach's decision and we went with it."

Added Crean: "I don't think it was trying to light a fire. I think it was trying to give us the best chance to start this game."

In this writer's opinion, Hollowell is better fit to come off the bench for this team. He's a great candidate for the Hoosiers' sixth man because of his ability to score and run the point.

There are a number of guys who can score in Indiana's starting lineup. There aren't as many in the second unit, which leaves more shots for Hollowell and more of an opportunity to create without impeding his teammates.

I don't think Howard is the guy that starts in his place going forward, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Hollowell come off the bench again. Top Stories