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Tuesday, Feb. 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Defense key to Hoosier's victory against VCU

IU v VCU

PORTLAND, Ore — It has been a topic at virtually every IU basketball press conference since the 2010-2011 season ended.
   
For IU to make the rise back into the top half of the Big Ten Conference and into the national landscape the Hoosier defense must improve.
   
In a season that has seen its up and downs on that end of the floor, IU’s defense rose to the challenge in closing out No. 12 VCU to advance to its first Sweet 16 since 2002.
   
IU allowed just two made field goals in the game’s final 12:13 while completing a nine-point comeback against No. 12 seed VCU with a 63-61 victory.
   
“The magic words, We're always about the defense,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “(The players) just kept talking about defense and defense and defense. I think it showed up in the way that we finished the game, with the stops we had, the percentages of stops that we had in the last six or seven minutes.”
   
Down 57-49 at the under-12-minute media timeout, IU was searching for answers in trying to stymie a VCU offense that had scored just 59 and 62 points respectively in its last two games.
   
The Hoosiers preached all season long how defense turns into offense and that would have to the be the case if they wanted to see the tournament’s second weekend.
   
“It was our mindset,” junior forward Christian Watford said of the need to get stops. “We knew what we had to do in order to win the game. We went out and executed that and it went from there.”

During the next 5:32 the Hoosiers held VCU scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting while forcing four Rams turnovers.
   
Throughout much of the game it was the Rams who turned IU over a season-high 22 times, but now it was the Hoosiers getting crucial stops beginning to cut into the VCU lead.
   
After the game, Crean talked about the growth he has seen from his team on the defensive end of the floor in the past month.
   
Even with two freshmen on the floor for much of the game’s final ten minutes, Crean said his team was comfortable playing defenses that maybe his youngest players weren’t fully experienced with yet.
   
“We went into a 55, which is all switching,” Crean said. “Would we have done that with Cody in the game a month ago? Probably not. But you say, ‘you know what, you're a great basketball player, go out there and be a great athlete.’  And he was.

"When you've got comfort with one another, and they're looking at Cody, and we haven't done a lot of switching with Cody, and Cody is in the game and they're saying ‘55,’ there's a lot of belief. You're trusting your teammate to help take care of it.”

The Rams took a 61-56 lead with 2:27 to go on a jumper by guard Darius Theus but from there it was all Hoosiers as VCU missed several good opportunities to extend its lead.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart alluded to the point that his team’s offense has been inconsistent all season long, but he also credited IU’s defense for his team scoring just 19 second-half points.

“It comes down to being able to put the ball in the basket when you get certain opportunities,” Smart said. “I think we got some good looks I know we got some good looks that I certainly would take again.”

One of those good looks came on the final possession as guard Rob Brandenberg’s last second three-pointer went helplessly bouncing off the iron.

Asked what Crean was thinking in the game’s final 12 seconds, he went right back to what has been coming out of his players mouth ever since the fall.

“Trust the defense,” Crean said. “It's a two-point game. We made the decision we were switching everything and we were going to live with it.”

Now, the Hoosiers will live to see the Sweet 16 and a rematch with No. 1 Kentucky.

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