Upon Further Review: Grace College

Not only is IU's exhibition season underway, but so are the careers of five of Tom Crean's heralded freshmen. Hoosier Nation breaks down the 96-73 win over Grace College, including what we found most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Jordan Hulls. There were a variety of players that had significant contributions to the Hoosiers' 23-point win, but Hulls gets the nod thanks to the team's play when he was on the court. Not only did Hulls score 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting while handing out three assists and committing zero turnovers, Indiana was a plus-22 on the scoreboard during his 21 minutes on the floor and only a plus-one when he wasn't. With Hulls on the court, Indiana outscored Grace 49-27. When he was on the bench the tally was 47-46 in Indiana's favor. The Hoosiers outscored Grace during each of Hulls' four stints of action, including a decisive 14-5 second half flurry when Hulls' entry helped IU turn a 48-46 lead into a comfortable 62-51 edge five minutes later.

Biggest Surprise… Indiana's shot selection. With a young team one might expect more ill-advised shots in the first exhibition contest, but the Hoosiers' choice of shots was solid Wednesday night. Only 13 of the Hoosiers' 75 attempts were from behind the 3-point arc, and probably all but one of those was a good choice by the shooter. Indiana shot a respectable 46.7 percent from the floor (35-of-75) overall, and that percentage would have been much higher if it wasn't for 17 missed layups and one missed dunk. Guards Jeremiah Rivers and Verdell Jones did a good job of relying on their strengths, which is attacking off the dribble and/or slicing into the lane to finish or draw contact. That duo combined for zero 3-point attempts in 50 minutes of action. Youngsters Christian Watford, Derek Elston and sophomore Tom Pritchard did most of their damage around the basket, helping IU to a 58-34 edge in points in the paint. Indiana's youngsters didn't take very many shots that they could get away with in high school but not in college. That's a good sign moving forward.

What I Found Most Impressive… The 25 turnovers that Indiana forced, resulting in 33 points off turnovers. Admittedly Grace College doesn't have the same sort of athletes that most of the teams on the Hoosiers' schedule have, but Indiana did do a nice job of pressuring the ball and creating some turnovers that produced easy transition opportunities. That's a style of play that Tom Crean wants to employ at Indiana, and he'll have more players that are capable of playing that way this season. A season ago Indiana forced only 14.1 turnovers/game and its -3.4 turnover margin/game ranked 315th out of 330 Division I teams. With the long arms of Maurice Creek and Jeremiah Rivers in the backcourt and the athleticism of players like Watford and Elston in the frontcourt, Indiana should be much more adept at pressuring teams into mistakes than it was a season ago.

What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana's transition defense needs some work. Grace wasn't shy about attacking the Hoosiers in transition off either misses or makes, and Coach Jim Kessler's team did it both with the guards and a big man in David Swanson who can run the floor and beat IU's big men to the other end on a couple of occasions for each baskets. Crean and his players pointed to transition defense as a point of emphasis following the game, and it's clearly an area that the Hoosiers will have to shore up as they take on teams that are better able to take advantage of some of those opportunities.

Turning Point: After a pair of Elliott Smith free throws cut Indiana's lead to 48-46 with 15:22 remaining, Indiana answered with a 14-2 run that gave it its first double-digit lead of the ball game, 62-48. Elston got things started with a nice spin move along the baseline, and Hulls followed with a 3-pointer after a Smith turnover. Six different Hoosiers scored during the flurry that also included four Grace turnovers and four missed shots by IU's opponents.

Quotable: "When we sat on the bus downstairs I said, ‘men, if you don't believe you can do this, then just sit on the bus, will you?' When you believe you can, then let's get off the bus and go play." – Grace Coach Jim Kessler

"We did a little sprint work last night and we made the point, we think this court is 94 feet, isn't it? I guess it is. The hoop is 10 feet. Obviously we must have thought it was 12 foot at the (free-throw) line, because we didn't knock them in there. If we'd shot the ball a little better there we probably would have made it a little more interesting down the stretch." – Kessler

"We really wanted to be in the bonus at an early stage and part of learning on the fly is learning what happens when you get into the bonus. You don't become a shot-manufacturing team. You don't take tough, challenged shots. You take open 3s, you get drive and kicks, you get it inside, you get it to the rim. And I thought we did that." – IU Coach Tom Crean

"I thought at one point when they smelled blood they really went for it. That's what we have to be able to do. It doesn't matter if you're playing against another team in an exhibition game, it doesn't matter if you're playing one of the better teams on your schedule. It really starts with how you go at each other in practice." – Crean

"We've been working our butts off in practice and it's great to play someone else." – Jordan Hulls

"I told (the young guys) to be level-headed, be poised, be smart, and be aggressive – just play. I'm not going to tell you don't shoot this, don't do that. They might be freshmen, but to us they're our teammates and we have two of them starting. So we just want them to play the game." – Jeremiah Rivers

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