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Tom Crean changes starting lineup, and Indiana survives with 83-73 win over St. John's

Tom Crean sent a message to his players by benching Troy Williams and James Blackmon on Tuesday, but Indiana still let a bad St. John's team hang in for far too long.

Indiana left a lot to be desired in its second game in Maui on Tuesday, but the No. 13 Hoosiers survived with an 83-73 win over St. John's in the consolation bracket at the Maui Invitational. Here's five things you should know from Tuesday's game. 

1. CREAN SENDS A MESSAGE: After Indiana's meltdown against Wake Forest on Monday, Tom Crean made several changes to the starting lineup for Tuesday. Crean benched Troy Williams, James Blackmon Jr. and Max Bielfeldt and replaced them with Collin Hartman, Nick Zeisloft and Robert Johnson.

It seemed to work as the Hoosiers (4-1) opened up a 17-point first-half lead, but IU was closed the half poorly and was outscored by a point in the second half. St. John's, which was blown out by 37 points in the Maui opener against Vanderbilt, got within four points in the second half. 

"We needed to change the dynamic based on the way the game was yesterday," Crean said. "The bottom line becomes we're gonna change the dynamic a little bit and make sure that we understand that there's certain standards that have to be met, especially in the hustle game. They weren't met yesterday."

When Williams' mother saw that her son was coming off the bench, she went to Facebook to express her displeasure. Among other things, she said "time to get the [expletive] out of IU." Williams later apologized for her comments.

That reaction is a great example of what makes coaching so hard these days. Talking heads always says, "Sit him down, punish him." When you do that, you get crazy parents complaining, threatening to take their son away, etc. It's one thing to be a caring, involved parent. That's great. It's something entirely different to be crazy and delusional. It's ruining sports. You can care and be involved while still letting the coach do his/her job. 

This is Crean's team, his program. If he doesn't think a player should start, then that's the only opinion that matters. It shouldn't draw public cursing and threats of transferring from a parent. Absolutely absurd, but trust me, it happens far more often than you might think. 

2. LONG NIGHT AFTER WAKE LOSS: Indiana's day was only just beginning after its 82-78 loss to Wake Forest on Monday. Crean scheduled time for both film session and practice after the loss.

"We scheduled the practice late, but the film session ended up being a little long," Crean said. "We needed to get some points across. I did the grades myself yesterday. It was more about our team understanding how much better we have to play. The level of detail, the level of awareness, the level of hustle and effort yesterday wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be. So it needed to be addressed and it needed to be seen."

3. BRYANT RESPONDS: Freshman big man Thomas Bryant was dominated by Wake Forest on Monday, but the former McDonald's All-American bounced back in a positive way against St. John's. Bryant scored 15 of his career-high 19 points in the first half, and he did it in only 22 total minutes. Bryant made 7-of-9 shots from the field and 5-of-7 from the foul line.

"Yogi and Rob did a fantastic job of getting the team centered early, and then Thomas did a great job of getting the team anchored," Crean said. "Thomas came out, for a very young freshman, after a tough day, and played much better."

"I know if I just keep playing, keep running and posting up, that those guys will give me the ball," Bryant added. "And they did."

4. BUT DEFENSIVE ISSUES PERSIST: I fully expected Indiana to come out angry against St. John's and run the bad team out of the gym. St. John's is ranked 171st by KenPom.com. But the Hoosiers let the Johnnies hang around all afternoon, primarily because of more lackluster defense. They let the St. John's guards drive and finish at the rim time and again down the stretch, something that has been a problem for far too long with this program now. 

It's not just that Indiana's defense needs to improve. The Hoosiers, on both ends, need to improve at the end of halves to be a good team. They have to learn how to put a team away, and right now, they simply cannot. They're usually fine in the middle of halves. Usually good to open games. But the end of first halves, the start of second halves, and the end of games need significant improvement.

St. John's scored on 10 of its final 16 possessions of the game, and on two of the six it didn't, it missed free throws. On a third, the Red Storm missed a layup. So Indiana really only stopped a poor offensive team 3 out of 16 times over the final 9:15. The Hoosiers were scoring themselves, sure, but in the Big Ten, those buckets aren't going to come quite so easily. 

"We were a little ruffled today. There is no question about it," Crean said. "It's been a short turnaround. We didn't play that well. It's not like we went back and hung around our rooms and played Call of Duty and 2K. ... But today, if it was going to be a 15-round fight, we wanted to make sure we could be in all 15 rounds. And I think that ended up happening that way. It's not easy to win."

5. YOGI's BIG DAY: Yogi Ferrell put the Hoosiers on his back offensively late in the second half, and during one stretch, he scored 9 out of 11 Indiana points. Ferrell finished with a game-high 22 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds in 36 minutes. No other Hoosier played more than 28 minutes (Robert Johnson).


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