Game MVP…Robert Vaden. Indiana's 6'5" standout has elevated his game to an All-Big Ten level. His 17-point, second-half effort saved the Hoosiers in their Big Ten opener. He scored 11 points in the first 5 ½ minutes of the second half to announce his presence, then scored six straight and then followed that up with an assist late to turn a 55-55 game into a 63-57 IU lead with less than two minutes remaining. His ability to not only put points on the board but come up with points, rebounds and assists at critical times has been huge for the 16th-ranked Hoosiers.
Call Me Crazy, But…With more nights like last night, Vaden could emerge as not only a first-team All-Big Ten candidate, but a legitimate Big Ten MVP contender if Indiana challenges for the conference title. He's a match-up nightmare for opponents because he is shooting better than 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc and he can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, all while proving himself capable of defending big men such as 6-9, 245-pound Graham Brown in the post. Certainly there are a slew of other worthy candidates, including defending league MVP Dee Brown, Michigan State's Paul Davis and Maurice Ager, and a couple of Vaden's own teammates in D.J. White and Marco Killingsworth, but Vaden has been at his best when it matters the most, and that's a recipe for Big Ten MVP consideration.
What Can Indiana Do…to get some more minutes for Ben Allen? Since scoring 21 points in 27 minutes in Indiana's loss at Indiana State, Allen has vanished from the IU rotation. He's scored six points in 35 combined minutes in IU's last five games, certainly not what many expected after his huge effort in Terre Haute. One of the reasons for Allen's dip in playing time is the return of D.J. White, and Allen's zero-point, three-minute outing against Butler was due more to matchups than anything else. But…you'd think there would be a way to get the 6'11" freshman 10-12 minutes/game and four or five shots. He's too good offensively to play as sporadically as he has been in recent weeks.
What I Found Most Concerning…was Michigan's dominance on the boards. Michigan managed to go into halftime tied 24-24 despite turning the ball over 12 times and shooting just 31 percent from the field. A 26-12 edge on the glass, though, enabled the Wolverines to shake off the sluggish start and give themselves a chance in the second half. Robert Vaden and Rod Wilmont made sure that didn't happen, but with a similar rebounding effort against Michigan State and Illinois next week would be very difficult to overcome.
What I Found Most Surprising…Michigan's big men were able to get Marco Killingsworth out of his comfort zone. Killingworth was just 5-of-12 from the floor, partly because the Wolverine big men were able to keep him from getting position at point blank range. Killingsworth was catching the ball six or seven feet from the bucket instead of three or four, and that kept him from having a huge night. While Graham Brown has the frame to bang with Killingsworth, Courtney Sims, Chris Hunter and Brent Petway also did a solid job against Indiana's leading scorer.
What I Found Most Impressive…was Rod Wilmont's ability to bounce back from being a non-factor in the first half to be a tide turner in the second. His pair of steals and fastbreak dunks were not only important in helping IU overcome an early four-point deficit in the second half, but also in upping the game's tempo to a pace that was much more to IU's liking. Give Donnie Marsh some credit as well – Indiana went to some three-quarters court pressure and some halfcourt traps to try to take the ball out of the guards' hands and create some havoc, and that played a part in 22 Michigan turnovers.
Random Thoughts…Indiana needs D.J. White's conditioning to get to where it needs to be quickly - White subbed out just 2:45 into the game, and then also went to the bench with 2:36 remaining in the contest and Indiana leading by just two, 59-57…trying to figure out why Lewis Monroe continues to get plenty of minutes despite being a virtual non-factor offensively? In Indiana's last three games, Monroe has committed only three turnovers in 73 minutes despite being Indiana's primary ball handler. For the season, Monroe has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio…for the first time this season, Errek Suhr didn't see any action. Suhr's DNP was a result of poor matchups – the Wolverines' pair of athletic, high-scoring guards Daniel Horton and Dion Harris would have been a tough assignment for the 5'9" junior…other than a big outing against Kentucky, this has been a season to forget personally for A.J. Ratliff. Ratliff rolled his ankle in the first half, and IU Coach Mike Davis said afterwards that he could be out "for a while."…Indiana has scored 70 or more points in nine of its 11 games this season, and is 9-0 in those contests. A year ago, Indiana scored 70 or more nine times all season. Indiana was 8-1 when it scored 70 or more a year ago, and 7-13 when it didn't.
Upon Further Review...
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