Upon Further Review: North Carolina Central

It was a tale of two halves for the Hoosiers, who struggled early against North Carolina Central but finished strong in a 23-point win at Assembly Hall Saturday night. Hoosier Nation looks back at the loss and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Jordan Hulls. While Maurice Creek's 29-point effort was every bit as important, Hulls was a difference maker at the most pivotal part of the game. After earning the start in the second half, Hulls had a hand in each of IU's first four baskets in the second half (three assists, one rebound basket), helping the Hoosiers turn the tide. With Hulls on the floor for the first 7:07 of the half, Indiana put together a 22-9 run to put the game away for all intents and purposes. During the stretch, Hulls had and hand in 18 of IU's 22 points either with a basket or an assist, as he totaled five points, three rebounds and five assists during that time span. Hulls finished with team-highs of seven rebounds and eight assists to go along with five points and only one turnover in 22 minutes of action. His stat line might not be as impressive as Creek's 29 points and seven rebounds, but Hulls' play was every bit as important.

Biggest Surprise… Playing a team that had been beaten by North Carolina by 47, Miami (Fla.) by 30 and Iowa by 10, Indiana had issues with North Carolina Central, particularly early. The Hoosiers made their first six shots to start the game to jump to a 13-5 lead three minutes in, but they let North Carolina Central battle back and even take a couple of one-point leads late in the first half before IU took a 36-33 edge into halftime. The root of the problem wasn't Indiana's offense – it shot 56 percent (14-of-25) in the game's first 20 minutes – but rather the defense. Crean said the defensive mindset was lacking in the opening half, and it showed. NCCU got some easy buckets out of its offensive sets and developed some confidence as the half wore on. While the visitors did hit some tough shots, they also took advantage of plenty of wide open looks in the first half as well. Indiana regrouped at halftime and limited those same sort of scoring opportunities, but it will have to put together 40 minutes of good basketball instead of 20 as the schedule eventually turns more difficult..

What I Found Most Impressive… Tom Pritchard's play. Overshadowed by the job that Hulls and Creek did was a solid eight-point, six-rebound, two-block performance by the sophomore forward off the bench. When Pritchard first went into the game early in the first half IU Coach Tom Crean could see seen telling Pritchard that he'd be the "hardest working player on the floor", and Pritchard delivered one of his better efforts to date this season. It wasn't a picture perfect effort by any means, as Pritchard did still pick up four fouls in his 21 minutes of play and missed badly on all three of his free-throw attempts. But he did turn in a performance that was more reminiscent of what IU got from him a year ago as opposed to what he's done in games this season. One of the sources of frustration for Crean and his staff with Pritchard has been the fact that his good play in practice hasn't been carrying over to the games. Crean said afterwards that Pritchard was the best player in practice all week, and that there "wasn't a close second." Last night, he showed a few more glimpses of what he's been doing in practice.

What I Found Most Concerning… Indiana forced North Carolina Central into only 10 turnovers. This was a NCCU team that entered the contest averaging more than 18 turnovers per game, but Coach LaVelle Moton's team turned it over only five times in each half. As a result, NCCU actually owned a 23-8 edge in points off turnovers in the game (IU had 16 turnovers), and the Hoosiers were able to muster only 16 fastbreak points. The Hoosiers want to play an up-tempo style whenever possible, taking advantage of the skills of ball handlers like Jeremiah Rivers and Jordan Hulls and the finishing abilities of players like Maurice Creek and Christian Watford. They're doing that with a commitment to getting the ball up the floor in a hurry after both misses and makes, but they'd also like to be able to dictate tempo more with their defense. But Indiana finished with a season-low four steals and were largely unable to create a great deal of tempo from the defensive end.

Turning Point: Indiana's 22-9 run to open the second half. Offensively, Jordan Hulls had a hand in 18 of the 22 points and Maurice Creek scored 16 of his game-high 29 during that stretch as Indiana scored on nine of its first 12 second-half possessions. On the other end of the court, North Carolina Central made its first two shots of the second half, but then proceeded to miss eight of its next nine shots. That landed the visitors in 16-point hole that they were never able to recover from.

Quotable:

"The first half it was clear we were still somewhere in the middle of one of our classes in exams and our mindset wasn't what it needed to be as far as defense as rebounding. It's a great lesson for a team to learn." – Tom Crean

"You saw two different halves of basketball. We went with the guys in the second half that had the best numbers for us in the plus/minus. I liked the line-up we ended the first half with, and we started that line-up in the second half (Rivers, Hulls, Creek, Pritchard, Watford)." – Crean

"(Creek) can flat out shoot the basketball and he's dangerous. The sky's the limit for that young man. He's incredible. I think if there's such a thing as a quiet 29, he had a quiet 29. He's real smooth." NCCU Coach LeVelle Moton

"I took a depth breath and I looked up and I said to myself and my coaching staff, this is one of the most beautiful atmospheres that I've ever seen in my life." – Moton

"I like to play both sides of the ball. People are watching that. They're watching the defensive side too. I'm working on my defensive side, and being as good a defensive player as an offensive player." – Maurice Creek

"We know we can win in the Big Ten this year. Teams aren't going to be taking us lightly, so we have to be able to step out, win these couple of games before the Big Ten starts." – Tom Pritchard

"He says I need to shoot more, and I look for my shot, and if I'm open I'm going to shoot it. But other than that, I'm trying to facilitate the ball and get it where it needs to be." – Jordan Hulls


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