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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Rebounding margin key to Butler's upset of IU

INDIANAPOLIS—A shell-shocked expression plastered across his face, the typically talkative Cody Zeller was at a loss for words after Saturday’s 88-86 Indiana overtime loss to Butler, never more so than when trying to explain how Butler’s big men dominated him around the basket.

“I don’t know,” the sophomore forward said. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

Later, IU Coach Tom Crean had no such hesitations when he took the podium, hoarse from an overtime game’s worth of exuberance.

“We didn’t rebound for 45 minutes the way we needed to rebound,” Crean said. “When you’re the aggressor for the entire game, especially on the glass, you’ve got a tendency to get more of those 50-50 balls to bounce your way. Sometimes that’s all it is, just a bounce. It’s not necessarily a positional thing. We weren’t nearly good enough on the backboards today.”

As Saturday’s game wore on at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, the lead swinging from one team to the other, IU continuously found itself lacking in one particular statistic: rebounds, a hallmark of physical play.

The Bulldogs, though mostly undersized compared to their No. 1-ranked foe, outmuscled the Hoosiers all afternoon, never trailing IU in boards and ultimately prevailing 40-38 in that category.

Butler forward Roosevelt Jones, only 6-foot-4 but bulky, led the way for the Bulldogs with 12 rebounds. Center Andrew Smith was close behind with 9 and consistently outmaneuvered Zeller in the post.

Afterward, Crean said Smith’s combination of size and scrappiness could land him in the NBA one day.

“He got garbage baskets, and I don’t mean that in a negative term. I mean that in a positive term. I don’t mean that as a negative at all,” Crean said. “He got some loose ball baskets. I don’t think it was a game where he beat us with post moves or things like that, second shots or loose rebounds.”

During the game, former Hoosier Verdell Jones tweeted ominously that he knew what rebounding drills Crean would put his players through at the next practice. Cream himself alluded to those after the game as well.

“I’m excited about getting to practice, and I’m excited about the rebounding drills we’re going to do,” Crean said. “I’m not sure many people will be sharing that joy with me, but I’m excited about it because right now that’s an area that we’ve really go to shore up for ourselves.”

At the same time, Crean said he felt his squad struggled to make plays in the crowded low post.

“We’ve got to do a better job of making pressure layups,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of making contact layups. We’ve got to do a better job of exploding through the contact – because we knew there would be contact, and there was plenty—and make those shots. They did a better job of that than we did.”

Physical games often breed fouls, and Saturday’s contest was no exception. Three Bulldogs fouled out, including Jones and Smith.

The fouls, of course, gave IU free throws, 38 in all, but the team was unable to capitalize on the early opportunities at the line to pull away before overtime.

Junior forward Will Sheehey, at 3-for-6, and Zeller, at 10-for-14 struggled in particular, and Zeller was again lost for an explanation for these issues in the loss.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t shooting it high enough. Little things.”

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