Men's Hoops: Indiana Preview

The Indiana Hoosiers come into the Vanderbilt game with a record of six wins and no losses. In the Maui Classic, they defeated Massachusetts 84-71, Gonzaga 76-75, and Virginia 70-63, and then won over North Texas 84-58 at home and beat the reigning NCAA champions, the Maryland Terrapins, in a rematch of last year's tournament championship game in Indianapolis.

This rematch was a thrilling overtime game, Indiana winning 80-74 last Monday. On Saturday afternoon, the Hoosiers defeated their most recent opponent, Illinois-Chicago, 91-62.

The heart and soul of he Hoosier team is 6-2 senior point guard Tom Coverdale. He is a highly vocal team leader who fearlessly penetrates the defense of any opponent, dishing out over five assists per game. To date he has made 41% of his 44 three point attempts, while averaging 17.5 ppg A strongly-built redhead from Noblesville IN, Coverdale takes his licks in nearly every game that he plays, but always gets up and keeps on going full tilt.

Coverdale's running mate is 6-3 freshmen Bracey Wright, one of the most highly recruited players in last year's crop. From The Woodlands TX, Wright is scoring 17.1 ppg and, like Coverdale, is making 41% of his three-pointers. He is a fleet-footed, tough defender and a dead-eyed free throw shooter (95%).

The starting forwards are both seniors, 6-9 Jeff Newton of Atlanta GA and 6-5 Kyle Hornsby of Anacoco LA. Newton is the team's top rebounder (10.2 per game) and third leading scorer (15.7 ppg) and, despite his size, sometimes steps outside and hits the three. He had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the Illinois-Chicago game. Hornsby has been noted mostly for his outside shooting in the past, but is making just 27% of his long-range shots this season. Watch out for Hornsby; he is averaging just 7.5 points but is due to break loose and have a big night.

The center is 6-11 junior George Leach of Charlotte NC. Leach is a premier shot blocker and intimidator under the basket and has added considerable weight this year to his previously slender frame. At 240 pounds, he is now better able to hold his own in the rebounding wars than previously. He is averaging 5.7 ppg and 7.8 rebounds.

6-2 true freshman Marshall Strickland from Baltimore MD, 6-8 redshirt freshman Sean Kline of Huntington IN, and 6-3 junior A.J. Moye of Atlanta, all see plenty of action. Kline (4.2 ppg) scored some big baskets late in the Maryland game, although his poor free throw shooting kept Coach Mike Davis on the edge of his seat. Like Leach, Kline never shoots three pointers, but Strickland is a threat at that distance and is averaging 6.6 ppg. Moye, who is scoring 4.0 ppg, has been rather quiet so far this season but had some big games last year, when he averaged 5.9 points.

Other scholarship players who could see action for Indiana are 6-2 sophomore Donald Perry of Tallulah LA, 6-9 sophomore Mike Roberts of Eugene OR, and 6-9 freshman Daryl Pegram of Los Angeles CA. 6-4 Freshman Roderick Wilmont has not seen action to date and has probably been redshirted.

The Hoosiers have been operating the fastbreak very efficiently this year. To have any chance of beating them, the Commodores must slow them down. That won't be easy because Indiana is the best rebounding and defensive team that Vanderbilt has faced so far.

The Indiana meeting is the most difficult of Vanderbilt's non-conference games. They will be playing a highly ranked opponent on their home court. It will be the Commodores' first road game of the season.

Realistically, Vanderbilt is not likely to win this game. Should they do so, it will be the best win that the Commodores have had in a long time, at least comparable to their victory over defending NCAA champion UCLA in the 1996 Maui Classic. In the years that C.M. Newton coached at Vanderbilt, the two teams met home-and-home four times, and one of those was a big upset win by the Dores in Nashville, Indiana taking the other three.

The prediction here is for an Indiana victory, with the final margin in the range of eight to 15 points. Regardless of the outcome, this is the type of game that the Commodores need, to prepare themselves for conference games on the road. Top Stories