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Indiana begins stretch of playing aggressive teams with Gavitt Tipoff game against Creighton

Hoosiers begin a challenging two-week stretch with Creighton in Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Indiana won its first two games of the regular season handily with an average margin of victory of nearly 33 points per game. 

Thursday night's Gavitt Tipoff game against Creighton will be a much greater challenge and kicks off one of the Hoosiers' most difficult stretches of their schedule.

"We're going to be playing some great teams (Thursday) and throughout the next couple weeks," IU forward Max Bielfeldt said. "Like Troy was saying, just taking it one game at a time. We'll really find out where we are right now against these really good teams, and see what we need to work and see what we're good at and keep improving on." 

Prior to a 14-19 record last season, Creighton appeared in three straight NCAA tournaments and made it to the third round in each of those years under head coach Greg McDermott. 

This season, the Blue Jays are off to a 2-0 start and have averaged 98 points per game in both wins. The competition wasn't what they'll likely face in the Big East. but the offensive output does pose problems for Indiana's defense. 

IU held its first two opponents to an average of 62.5 points per game. However, its most recent opponent, Austin Peay, scored 76 points after Vanderbilt held the Governors to 41 total. Austin Peay was two points shy of that total at halftime this past Monday against Indiana. 

Thursday gives the Hoosiers - who had 57 deflections against the Governors, according to Crean - another chance improve their defense.

According to Indiana forward Troy Williams, the next step in improving it is staying focused. 

"It's huge, we need it," Williams said. "Every day we try to switch it up and give our scout team different roles to take on ... really, it's just staying focused, doing extra research, watching more film, more just doing the little things behind the work."

Defensively, there won't be many opportunities for steals against Creighton. Its 22 turnovers committed so far this season ranks 100th out of 341 Division I teams. The Blue Jays had 12 against the University of Texas at San Antonio Tuesday night. 

"Because of the way they move the ball, everybody has got a hard job tomorrow night because you've got to be alert and aware," IU head coach Tom Crean said. "You cannot watch the ball or someone's going to be cutting behind you or standing wide open for a three in the corner, which we don't want that happening." 

Creighton's rebounding numbers haven't high as a result of playing a three-guard lineup, which could benefit the traditional lineup of Yogi Ferell, James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams, Max Bielfeldt and Thomas Bryant. 

The Blue Jays' three guards were 5-foot-10, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-3, while its frontcourt started 6-foot-8 forward Cole Huff and 7-foot center Geoffrey Groselle. With that size, it narrowly won the rebounding battle in both of its games 39-32 and 34-32. However, the smaller lineup has allowed them to play at a much faster tempo and better spacing, which has led an average of 68 shot attempts per game. 

Indiana's lineup in terms of height went 6-foot, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10 from point guard to center, respectively.

Using that lineup, the Hoosiers out-rebounded Austin Peay 30-25. When it used a slighly smaller lineup their first game against Eastern Illinois and inserted Collin Hartman at forward, the rebounding edge was 51-17 in favor of Indiana. Given the discrepancies, their rebounding isn't even close to where Crean wants it to be. 

"Our rebounding, forget midseason form, is not even in early season form," Crean said. "We've got to be absolutely committed to the glass." 

After Creighton, Indiana travels to Maui for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Monday which will feature UCLA and Kansas among other top programs. When it returns from Maui, it will face Duke Dec. 2 in Durham, N.C.

But Crean emphasized the Hoosiers should be focused soley on who they play Thursday night and not their opponents down the road.

"Right now, the most important thing, by far, is making sure we understand just how good Creighton is tomorrow." Top Stories