Bloomington, Ind. – The Hoosiers' NCAA opener is rapidly approaching, but they will be in no hurry on Friday night.
As eighth-seeded Indiana (27-5) readies itself for a clash with ninth-seeded Arkansas (22-11) at approximately 9:40 p.m. Friday, Coach Dan Dakich knows that tempo will be big factor in the game's outcome. While Indiana easily led the Big Ten in scoring (75.1/game) this season, it won't be looking to get into a track meet with Coach John Pelphrey's Razorbacks.
"I think that you have to slow them down," Dakich said.
While Indiana actually averaged two more points per game than Arkansas, IU's SEC foe tries to play in a manner similar to how former Coach Nolan Richardson used to play. They have a swarm of talented athletes who will press frequently and try to force turnovers or long rebounds, and ultimately generate fast-break opportunities.
"They talk about SEC athletes in football, you hear about the speed of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee," Dakich said. "Well, it's the same thing in basketball. There is a speed factor that we have to be ready for."
Those athletes are all over the floor. In the backcourt, Patrick Beverley, Gary Ervin and Sonny Weems have all totaled more than 40 steals this season. Up front, Pelphrey has an array of long, athletic big men to create problems of their own.
It might not be the "40 minutes of hell" that Richardson made famous during his 17 seasons in Fayetteville, Indiana will be in for 40 minutes of misery if it doesn't figure out a way to keep the press and tempo from determining the game's outcome.
"(Their speed) can't knock you back," Dakich said. "You have to be ready for it and not let that be a determining factor in the outcome of the game."
That's exactly what Michigan State did to Indiana a couple of weeks ago, consistently beating IU down the floor for fast-break baskets and easy looks on its way to a 102-73 win. Since then, Dakich has been pleased with the improvement he's seen in that area. While the Hoosiers have lost two in a row, they haven't been exploited in transition like they were at Michigan State.
That might be a good sign, but the Hoosiers' interim coach knows it will still be a concern Friday night.
"This is a different level of athletic ability," Dakich said.
If Indiana can't keep the Razorbacks from dominating the tempo, it figures to be in for a long night. Arkansas is 15-0 this season when it scores 75 or more points, so keeping the games in the 60s will be of utmost importance.
It all adds up to a difficult match-up for the Hoosiers, who probably haven't played against a team that mixes this blend of size and athleticism all season. But it's one they'll have to find a way to survive if they want to advance to potentially play top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday.
"It's a tough match for anyone, but it's our match and we have to play well to do well," Dakich said.
No Reason for the Hoosiers to be Hurryin'
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