Upon Further Review: Bryant

The season-ending knee injury to Maurice Creek dampened any degree of enthusiasm from Indiana's 90-42 win over Bryant Monday night. Hoosier Nation looks back at the 48-point win and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Christian Watford. After a couple of sub-par performances in recent weeks, IU's freshman forward bounced back in a big way against Bryant. Watford was a perfect 5-for-5 shooting in the game's opening 10 ½ minutes, helping Indiana open a 23-7 lead. Watford got things started with a strong, straight-line drive to the basket for IU's first basket, and then added a couple of mid-range jumpers followed by a uncontested layup following a Jordan Hulls steal in the backcourt. Watford eventually stepped outside behind the 3-point arc and knocked down one of IU's nine 3-pointers, but he got himself untracked early from 12 feet and in. On top of the 15 points, Watford also added a game-high nine rebounds, two blocked shots, and zero turnovers in 24 minutes. With Maurice Creek lost for the season, these are the kind of outings Indiana is going to need from Watford in the Big Ten.

Biggest Surprise… The decision to start Jordan Hulls over Jeremiah Rivers as the point guard spot. Hulls has continued to play better and better on a regular basis, and IU Coach Tom Crean said that when it comes to ball movement and flow that the offense has been at its best when Hulls is on the floor. But it was still a surprise to see Rivers on the bench when the opening tip went up for the first time this season. Both players responded to the change with solid games. Hulls made 4-of-6 from deep for 12 points to go along with three assists, three steals and zero turnovers. Rivers, meanwhile, played 19 minutes off the bench and chipped in seven points, three steals, two assists and five rebounds. It's unclear if Hulls will continue to start when Big Ten play opens, but it's obvious with Creek's injury that both will need to play big roles moving forward. Hulls is now the team's one consistent deep threat behind the 3-point arc. Rivers continues to be the team's best perimeter defender and he'll be counted on more for drives to the rim. It's a good bet that fans will now start to see Rivers and Hulls on the floor together with Creek sidelined. The point guard duo has played together plenty already this season, but it figures to become an even more common occurrence moving forward.

What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana's dominance defensively. Bryant's 0-13 record suggests Coach Tim O'Shea's team is anything but a powerhouse, but the fact the Hoosiers were able to limit the Bulldogs to 25 percent shooting (15-of-60), keep them off the foul line (10-of-15) and force 19 turnovers suggests there was a lot that the Hoosiers were doing to contribute to make things difficult for their foe. Indiana had so much luck with its fullcourt pressure and trapping in the second half of the Loyola game that it went to it a great deal against Bryant. The strategy worked, as Bryant turned the ball over in five of its first nine possessions and quickly went down 10. The pressure not only forced turnovers and dictated tempo, but also resulted in one 10-second backcourt violation. The loss of Creek does hurt IU's ability to play a 94-foot game because of his length and the added depth he provides, but IU figures to continue to use the press and traps frequently as it heads into conference play.

What I Found Most Concerning… Creek's season-ending injury. It's obvious that the loss of Creek is a significant blow to an Indiana team that had already lost one of its other top 3-point shooters, Matt Roth. Even though he'd been limited to 12 points in his last three halves of basketball before the injury, Creek had clearly established himself as a No. 1 option and the No. 1 concern for opposing coaches. Now, Indiana heads into the Big Ten season with no games to get comfortable understanding how his loss impacts the roles and responsibilities of everyone else on the team. On top of that, there's a long recovery ahead for Creek following today's surgery. While Indiana officials haven't specified the precise details of the injury, it would appear to be similar to what happened to Greg Oden earlier this month when he fractured his patella and is now out for the season. Oden is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp next season, and there's no reason to think that Creek can't do the same and be back to full strength for his sophomore campaign. But it's still a devastating blow for a player who was beginning to make a name for himself as one of the country's best freshmen.

Turning Point: The opening tip went up and the rout was on. The Hoosiers owned a 10-point lead 5 ½ minutes in, and the lead was double digits from the 13:07 mark of the first half on. Christian Watford got Indiana off to a fast start with his hot shooting, while Derek Elston came off the bench to score on a layup and a 3-pointer during the quick 12-2 start.

Quotable:
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to play this game because as we're taking a program into Division I, we have the opportunity to play an Indiana at Assembly Hall. Forget the score. It allows us to identify or brand ourselves as a Division I program." – Bryant Coach Tim O'Shea

"It's tough when a guy goes down, and there's still a game to be played. You have to keep your head and focus on the goal and that's winning. When you get the win you can worry about what happened with Mo, and that's what we did." – Tom Pritchard

"Our press was really good against Loyola at the end of the game, and I think Coach saw that and saw we could put that into our game. I think it really worked for us. Bryant wasn't able to handle it." – Pritchard

"I looked at it and it didn't look right. So I knew it was something serious." – Verdell Jones

"We're looking forward to the Big Ten season. We got pounded last year, and there were a lot of close games we should have won. I think we have the personnel to win those games and pull out some big ones." – Jones

"We did a lot of really good things tonight. Obviously we were playing a team that's going through growing pains and doesn't have a great record, but when you hold a team to 25 percent from the field and 18 percent from the 3-point line it's really about what your team is doing. We needed a game like that." – Tom Crean

"They really, really feel for their teammate. As a coach, you hate to see anybody ever go through that. But also as the coach and the leader of the program, you know you've got some people really on the right path, and a program on the right path when they care that way about their teammates." – Crean


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