FORT WAYNE – Just one more game. One more game until No. 5 Indiana starts conference play. And just one more game before the Hoosiers’ first true road game of the season.
IU has its final tuneup for Big Ten play tonight against Jacksonville.
I like the fact that we come back from the break and still have a nonconference game to get us back in our rhythm, Indiana associate coach Steve McClain said Thursday. The last two years, we have come back and opened up right with Big Ten games. The closer you get to conference play, the veteran guys know what is coming. For the younger guys, I think it’s good to have a nonconference game especially after a break.
The Hoosiers had some time off after defeating Florida Atlantic 88-52 on Dec. 21.
It was great to go home, but it’s even better to be back, and we are looking forward to getting into the gym, sophomore guard Remy Abell said. We are going to get our focus back on what we need to do and what we are trying to accomplish. The practices have been very competitive and the team is working hard.
Coach Tom Crean liked what he saw upon returning to practice. Our players’ competitive nature was in full bloom in practice, he said. Great battles, and team was vocal with one another. Rebounding was hard. Driving, sprinting the floor, footwork, shooting and energy were focal points.
IU (11-1) opens Big Ten play Monday at Iowa. But first up is Jacksonville (5-7).
We have to come right back out and play Indiana basketball from the start, Abell said. There has to be no letup whatsoever. It’s important for us to keep our composure, trust in our teammates, and everything should be fine.
The Dolphins’ schedule has already included games at Georgia, Miami and South Carolina. Jacksonville lost all three.
Jacksonville wants to get out and push and run, Indiana freshman guard Kevin Yogi Ferrell said. We always have to have a guy back on defense.
Jarvis Haywood leads the Dolphins in scoring, averaging 11.2 points.
They like to play inside-outside, create matchup problems. (Haywood) is really having an outstanding year, McClain said.
They are a team that plays with a great purpose, and (Jacksonville coach) Cliff (Warren) has done a good job of building them back up and a lot of new faces, but you can tell they are getting used to each other and playing together.