Game MVP - A.J. Ratliff. Five days removed from an unceremonious second-half benching against Duke, Ratliff bounced back in a big way with an 18-point, three-assist, three-steal effort against Charlotte. Ratliff didn't enter the game until 13 ½ minutes remained in the opening half, and finished with 16 of his team-high 18 points in the opening half, including four 3-pointers during a 4 ½-minute stretch that saw IU turn a 16-13 deficit into a 32-21 lead. Afterwards Ratliff said his benching against Duke was a result of his being "timid," and he certainly wasn't that Saturday. Ratliff's 16 shots was double what anyone else on the IU roster put up, 11 of which were 3-pointers. While this was a big game for Ratliff, time will tell if he's ready to take a big step forward in terms of being a consistent offensive weapon for Sampson's squad. A year ago he scored 21 in a win against Kentucky – a contest that was viewed as a turning point for him – but he scored in double figures only one more time a year ago.
Biggest Surprise… Kelvin Sampson apparently isn't looking for Earl Calloway to be a stereotypical facilitator for this year's team at the point guard position – instead, Sampson wants Calloway to be on the attack on the offensive end and be a primary scorer. "Earl is not a halfcourt, run-your-team point guard," Sampson said. "Earl has to score…As you get to know him, Earl isn't going to go out there and run your team. That's not his deal. Let him attack. Let scoring be who he is, because I think he can score. The more he attacks, the better Earl is as your point guard." With that in mind, Calloway scored 12 points and added three assists in 26 minutes off the bench Saturday, including a career-high tying five 3-point attempts.
What I Found Most Impressive… The Hoosiers continue to pound opponents on the boards. Indiana out-rebounded Charlotte 46-34, marking the sixth straight foe the Hoosiers have out-rebounded this season. IU has been a mediocre rebounding team in recent years, but now owns a +9.1 rebounding margin this season with a team that doesn't have a much different make-up than last year's squad that had a +1.1 rebounding margin. Indiana ranks third in the Big Ten in the category, trailing only Michigan State (+10.6) and Illinois (+10.5). A year ago Indiana ranked seventh in the category in the conference, and it was 10th in both 2004-05 (-2.7) and 2003-04 (-1.2). The credit for this turnaround goes to Sampson, who's always instilled a commitment to rebounding the basketball with his teams. D.J. White is now averaging 8.0 rebounds/game, while Rod Wilmont's 10-rebound effort against Charlotte upped his average to 5.8/game.
What I Found Most Concerning… D.J. White had a solid game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, but he's still not being as aggressive offensively as he needs to be. White played a team-high 32 minutes but attempted only six shots. Admittedly Ratliff had the hot hand early on, but White still needs to be more assertive in establishing position down low, and then more aggressive when he gets the ball on the block. Once he does that, he'll free up even better scoring opportunities for the Hoosier guards.
Turning Point: Charlotte whittled IU's lead to five, 40-35, 4 ½ minutes into the second half, but a 7-0 IU run pushed the lead back to double figures. Charlotte missed nine straight shots during a 4 ½ minute stretch that saw IU extend the margin back to a comfortable margin.
Quotable: "The thing I get on DJ about is being committed to something. When he gets the ball in the post, we don't need to see up-and-unders and pirouettes and acrobatics and back flips and jumping jacks. Grab the ball and score. Grab the doggone ball and put the ball in the hole." - IU Coach Kelvin Sampson
"We talk to our kids about habits. Something happens once, it might be an accident. If it happens twice, it might be a coincidence. But if it happens three or more times, it becomes a habit. We're creating some habits around here, trying to get our kids to be good at something. A lot of coaches talk about an identity, and we're starting to get one – defend and rebound." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"I like to work with kids different ways. There are different ways to challenge kids. A.J. responds well to a certain way. They're not all the same. I don't treat them all the same. I treat them fairly, I try to be fair with every kid, but I don't treat them all the same. You can't treat AJ like you do Errek Suhr, trust me on that one." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
Random Thoughts: Indiana played 10 players against Charlotte, a larger-than-normal rotation for most programs. At this point, though, it's hard to imagine any of those 10 being dropped from the regular rotation any time soon. Early in the year the player on the outside looking in was Mike White, but White had a nice 16-minute, five-point, five-rebound effort against Charlotte. In his last two games, White is averaging 4.5 points and 6.5 rebounds…don't expect to see Indiana playing Charlotte again anytime soon. Saturday marked the final game in a three-game series with the 49ers, and it doesn't appear they'll be on the schedule in the near future. Sampson said Charlotte is a challenge to prepare for because of the variety of defensive looks they throw at foes. "(Charlotte Coach Bobby Lutz) plays man, he plays zone, he plays box and one, he plays triangle and two – they're hard to prepare for. It's hard to play against them because they change defenses and give you so many different looks."
Upon Further Review - Charlotte
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