BLOOMINGTON – Indiana had its best outside shooting performance of the season in a win Saturday. But Tom Crean had a message for his team after that 89-68 win over North Florida.
The Hoosiers (7-2) can’t forget who they are.
First and foremost, we’re trying to build on the progress we think we made Saturday night, Crean said Monday. The most important thing is that we have great energy, that we continue to understand that every game is its own mission with the way teams want to play, the way teams want to attack us.
Crean is still trying to hammer home the message to six IU freshmen, and the team as a whole, that every night is different. The Hoosiers hit six 3-pointers in the win on 18 tries despite shooting just 28 percent from beyond the 3-point line in the first eight games.
But this isn’t a hot-shooting team. It’s a group that relies on driving, on post play through its forwards, including Noah Vonleh, who has six double-doubles and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the third time.
IU proved it can hit rhythm threes Saturday, but it can’t get away from the identity that put them in the position to have those 3-point chances.
I think coach wants me to do more of attacking the rim, really, said sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell, who is shooting a team-best 41.1 percent from beyond the arc and leads the Hoosiers with 17 points a game. Trying to get more fouls and basically get more easy points at the free-throw line.
Saturday showed how good this team can be, as it hit a season high in assists (17) and a season low in turnovers (11).
But last Tuesday, the Hoosiers looked sloppy as they deviated from attacking the rim and settled for jumpers in a 69-52 loss to then-No. 4 Syracuse.
IU will hope for more of the former than the latter during its matchup with Oakland today. The Golden Grizzlies (2-7) opened the season with seven straight losses but have won their last two, including a win Saturday against Ohio.
Oakland features one of the best scorers in the country in Travis Bader, who is hitting 40.8 percent of his 3s and averaging 21.1 points.
This is going to be a great challenge for us on the defensive end to stop a guy who’s getting 11 3-point shots a game, Crean said.
They’re playing with confidence.
Mitch Baenzinger is averaging just 7.1 points a game but shooting a nation-best 53.8 percent from behind the arc, which could test an IU defense that guards the rim well but needs to play disciplined along the perimeter.
This is going to be a real challenge, sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell said. They have the leading 3-point percentage guy, so we’re going to have our hands full defensively. We’ve got to know where he’s at on the floor, and we can’t get lost in transition.
Offensively, IU will face an amoeba-like defense that switches between zone looks frequently, Crean said. The Hoosiers will again have to be creative with their passing and make the extra pass.
That works for him. This team needs to build off the movement it created Saturday anyway.
Everybody can impact the game with ball and body movement, Crean said. Everybody can impact the game with rebounding. And when you have that, then you have a chance to really make strides, and you can go from there.