Indiana ready for 'great test' against SMU

The Hoosiers host No. 22 SMU at 8 p.m. Thursday night. They'll get Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson and Emmitt Holt back from suspension in their first real test of the year.

Indiana faces its first real test of the season on Thursday night when No. 22 SMU visits Assembly Hall.

The Mustangs (1-1) aren't nearly the team we expected them to be when we examined the schedule last year. Top recruit Emmanuel Mudiay opted to play professionally overseas rather than attend college, and top big man Markus Kennedy is ineligible for the first semester. Kennedy averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game a season ago.

SMU lost at No. 13 Gonzaga 72-56 on Monday night and didn't look particularly impressive. Then again, Gonzaga is really, really good, especially at home.

Still, SMU is a solid team that will be plenty prepared for Thursday night's game.

“It will be an incredibly challenging game for us in many ways," Indiana coach Tom Crean said Wednesday. “They are extremely talented at all five positions and they have very good depth. I’m not sure against Gonzaga the other night if anybody would have gone in there and had a much different result the way Gonzaga played.

“They’re going to bring a very physical and aggressive attacking style to us, which is going to be a tremendous challenge. It’s a great test.”

The cupboard is not completely bare for the Mustangs, who are a 2.5-point favorite against IU. They are led by junior guard Nic Moore, a Warsaw, Ind. native. Moore was on the Wooden Award Top 50 watch list and averaged 13.6 points and 4.9 assists per game last season. The 5-foot-9 guard is averaging eight points and five assists per game through the first two games.

“He’s fearless," Crean said. "He’s got incredible toughness. He can score at the rim, he can score in pull up, he can score from deep with a 3. He makes the easy pass. He’s not one of those guys that’s over dribbling. SMU will take a back seat to no one when it comes to pressuring the ball, and I think Nic leads the way with that.

“He’s a well-rounded player, he’s a proven winner and he makes a lot of things happen for that team.”

Forward Ben Moore is leading SMU in scoring at 16.5 points per game through two games, shooting 59.1 percent from the field. Center Yanick Moreira is averaging 11.5 points and six rebounds per game.

SMU doesn't have many shooters, so in many ways the Mustangs remind me of Indiana from a year ago. They have a really good point guard, along with a bunch of guys that like to attack the basket. Indiana will have to defend and rebound at a high level.

SMU, of course, is coached by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, a legendary NBA coach who has really turned the SMU program around.

“When it comes to coach Brown, I can’t name anybody that I have learned more from or that has been better to me that I didn’t work for," Crean said. "Coach Brown is in the Hall of Fame as a coach, and I don’t think there’s any question that he could be in the Hall of Fame with a second bust as a contributor to the game. He has been so good to so many coaches.”

The Hoosiers (2-0) get Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson and Emmitt Holt back from suspension against SMU, and that will certainly help in the rebounding department. Williams started every game for Indiana last season, but Crean says he doesn't know what the lineup will look like on Thursday night.

“I haven’t made any decisions on that and it’s really not as relevant as who finishes the game. It may or may not change," Crean said. “They’ve actually done more [since they've been out], especially on game days. There’s been no wasted days with them. They practice just like everybody else does.

“They worked extremely hard. They really missed it. Anytime you’re bringing back guys that haven’t played, they have to get with the team. It’s not like the team comes back and gets around them. They have to fit in with what we’re trying to do, and that doesn’t happen easily. But it has to happen. We’ve got to work through that and blend them in.”

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