Allen Familiar With Nicholls State Foes

Before Ben Allen arrived on the Bloomington campus, the Indiana freshman was already hearing some good-natured chatter about tonight's showdown with Nicholls State. The talk was coming from Michael Czepil, a freshman on the Nicholls State roster who also hails from Australia...

Before Ben Allen arrived on the Bloomington campus, the Indiana freshman was already hearing some good-natured chatter about tonight's showdown with Nicholls State.

The talk was coming from Michael Czepil, a freshman on the Nicholls State roster who also hails from Australia. Allen knew Czepil well, having played with the 6-2, 180-pound guard on a couple of Australian youth teams that won national championships.

But Allen had no idea their paths were going to cross tonight.

"He was saying they were going to be ready for the game in November, and I had no idea what he was talking about," said Allen.

Now that Allen realizes he'll be going up against a couple of fellow "mates" in Assembly Hall tonight, he's on a bit of a mission in his first regular season game as an Indiana Hoosier.

"I want to show them who went to the better school," said Allen.

The 21st-ranked Hoosiers certainly head into tonight's season opener as a heavy favorite over a Nicholls State team that went 6-21 a year ago, including 1-15 in the Southland Conference. While the match-up doesn't have the big-name appeal of some of Indiana's upcoming contests, it's still an exciting moment for the 6-10, 245-pound Allen, who will be making his official collegiate debut.

Allen isn't expected to start tonight, but his role will undoubtedly be significant. With D.J. White on the sidelines until at least mid-to-late December with a broken left foot, Allen has emerged as the first big man off the Indiana bench. He was a big contributor in IU's exhibition wins over St. Joseph's (Ind.) and Indianapolis, averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.

"Those two games were good in that they opened my eyes to see how Americans play basketball and what it's going to be like playing in the Big Ten," said Allen.

The biggest difference, Allen says, is the level of intensity and physicality that he's witnessed since arriving in the U.S. late this summer. Allen suffered a broken nose on the opening tip of IU's debut practice in October, and he's certainly picked up his share of bumps and bruises while working against the likes of Marco Killingsworth and Sean Kline in practice. But those head-to-head encounters have being paying dividends according to IU assistant Kerry Rupp.

"The one good thing about him is he's a little bit more physical than I thought he'd be," said Rupp, who was instrumental in bringing Allen to Bloomington from the Australian Institute of Sport.

But Allen has more to offer Indiana than just a big frame. He's a skilled big man, someone who can play both inside and out. He's also experienced beyond his years, having spent the summer playing for the Australian Under-21 National team.

While his ability to shoot from the perimeter has impressed many on-lookers, Allen knows his biggest contributions need to come in the paint and around the basket.

"My game originated from the inside – I've always played in the post," said Allen. "The outside game is just something that I've added to it."

Rupp, meanwhile, concurs that the talented IU freshman should do the majority of his work around the basket.

"I think where he's going to be really good for us is if he can get down low and wide and use that big body in the post and seal and pin people," said Rupp. "Then he can fall into his 3s by virtue of how we're playing.

"If you're 6-10, 250 or 255, you definitely want to be able to do damage in the paint. That's critical for anyone with his size to know how to post in the paint, demand the ball, want the ball down there, go to the line. One-third of a big man's points should come from the free throw line from being an aggressive poster, post and pin, by virtue of post and pin, move your feet, you can fall into easy seals."

Those are all elements that Rupp and the rest of the Indiana staff have been working with the Australian on, and he's been an able and willing student.

"He's looking at what I'm doing and giving me constructive criticism which I love, because I always want to learn," said Allen.

Rupp says that the staff is also working with Allen on doing a better job of moving his feet on the defensive end and not allowing opposing big men to get position in the paint. Footwork, blocking out, defensive angles and rebounding with two hands are all things that they've been focusing on this fall.

"Those are things that you have to address, but he's trying and he wants to learn and he wants to be a great player," said Rupp.

Allen will get an opportunity to show Hoosier fans as well as some former friends from Australia how far he's come in those areas tonight, when Indiana hosts Nicholls State at 6 p.m.

It's a game that Allen has been looking forward to since receiving word that Czepil would be coming to town to face off with his former youth teammate.

"It's going to be fun," said Allen. "I've been a little bit homesick lately, but hopefully seeing some mates this week will help out."

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