Upon Further Review: Howard

Maurice Creek, Christian Watford and Derek Elston combined for 45 points to lead Indiana to a season-opening 83-60 win over Howard Friday night at Assembly Hall. Hoosier Nation looks back at the contest and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Derek Elston. You could flip a coin (if you had a three-sided one) and Elston, Christian Watford and Maurice Creek would all be worthy choices. But we'll give the nod to Elston for a performance that was nearly perfect – he made all six of his shots in the game's first 36 minutes before missing on a 17-foot jumper to finish 6-of-7 for 14 points. Elston is showing off the offensive versatility that maybe a lot of people didn't realize he had. He knocked down a couple of 3-pointers from the top of the key, and he once again showed off what is starting to look like his signature move – a baseline drive and spin where he can blow by slower big men and get to the rim. Elston came off the bench for the third straight game and scored his 14 points in just 14 minutes of action. He seems to be a perfect choice to be the Hoosiers' sixth man, as he brings versatility, energy and a presence whenever he's on the floor. Biggest Surprise… All 16 players on Indiana's roster suited up Friday night. Tom Crean had said that he wasn't necessarily thinking about redshirting anyone this season, and that option is now off the table (barring a season-ending injury for someone) after everyone saw game action in a regular season game. The player that probably seemed like the most logical choice to consider redshirting was Bawa Muniru, based on the fact that he has plenty of potential but is still trying to find his way around a little bit on the court. But the Indiana staff likes his shot-blocking presence, and even in a limited role he can give that sort of assistance as the season wears on. What I Found Most Impressive… The wide array of offensive weapons on the Indiana roster. A year ago, almost all of Indiana's point production came from Devan Dumes, Verdell Jones and Tom Pritchard. Nick Williams would sprinkle in some points and Matt Roth could get hot on occasion, but it was primarily the aforementioned trio that did the majority of the heavy lifting. That often meant that Indiana would have five players on the floor, but perhaps only two or three were legitimate offensive weapons. This year is a very different story. Christian Watford and Derek Elston can score inside and out. Jeremiah Rivers can attack the rim and get the line or finish. Maurice Creek has topped IU in scoring in each of the past two games, while Jordan Hulls gives Indiana another reliable 3-point shooter who can also break down a defender off the dribble. Bobby Capobianco hasn't done much yet, but his time will come as well. Dumes, Jones and Pritchard combined for 26 points last night, yet the Hoosiers still scored 83 in the win. That 83 points equals Indiana's season-high from all of last season, and it's unfathomable that Indiana could have approached that point total a season ago with only 26 from that trio. What I Found Most Concerning… Howard attempted 30 free throws compared to only 13 for the Hoosiers. In Monday night's exhibition game the Hoosiers attempted 46 free-throws against St. Joseph's, and Indiana's fast-paced, attacking style of play would seem to be conducive to getting to the free-throw line on a fairly regular basis. It didn't work that way Friday night, though, as the game officials called the Hoosiers for a trio of charges, two of which appeared like they could have gone either way (Jeremiah Rivers, Verdell Jones). The lack of free-throws made little difference in a game where Indiana shot 55.7 percent overall, 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc and outscored its foe by 19 in fast-break points. But Indiana won't be able to shoot at that clip every night, and teams will find ways to slow Indiana down at times. In those instances, an ability to get to the free-throw line to get some free points will be important. Turning Point: Leading 20-18 with 7:03 remaining in the first half, Indiana scored 20 of the half's final 25 points to open a 17-point halftime lead. Creek got things started with a 3-pointer, while Elston followed that up with his driving, spinning layup and then a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put IU up 10. Elston would add another putback basket and Watford capped Indiana's run with a 3-pointer of his own. Howard, meanwhile, committed six turnovers and missed six of seven shots during Indiana's run, and for all intents and purposes the game was over at halftime. Quotable: "The crowd was great. It always helps hearing your own people out there cheering for you. That brings energy to us, and we bring it to them, too." – Maurice Creek "When we separated we started playing really good defense. Our zone caused some real trouble tonight. We got our enthusiasm up and we did good." – Christian Watford "We don't care who gets all the points, so long as we get a W at the end game. Tonight it was Maurice, but we have other guys that can step up and do all the scoring. We're going to play to match-ups, and whatever is best." – Jordan Hulls "I just thought they played and they played together. They looked to get easy shots. You didn't see anybody playing selfishly. The worked hard inside and their post guys banged. They tried to rebound and keep the ball alive. I thought it was a team effort that we expected. I thought our guys let the game get away from them." – Howard Coach Gil Jackson "We weren't always as smart or as active as we needed to be defensively with moving our head and using our brain and using our hands and arms, but we were really, really active with our feet. And that's a really good start ." – Tom Crean "There's a ton of things for us to improve upon, and we know that. You know it, and our fans know it. But it's a good start to what we hope will be a productive and improvement-filled season." – Tom Crean

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