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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU hopes to improve rebounds

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It is never quite the same batch of questions that erupts on the blogosphere after an IU loss this season.

Often physicality is questioned.

Sometimes ball movement is too.

Turnovers, cold shooting and defensive lapses have all taken shares of blame.

One question is near-constant, though.

What next?

IU has not dropped consecutive games yet this season, bouncing back from each loss with a win.

After falling 77-73 to Minnesota Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, IU looks to repeat the feat against Iowa, a team the Hoosiers narrowly defeated 69-65 on New Year’s Eve to open the Big Ten season.

“Our players are resilient,” IU Assistant Coach Kenny Johnson said in
December following IU’s loss to Butler. “I think when they walked in the door, even last spring, they signed up for a marathon, not a sprint. We are continuing on with the same process to make sure we maximize each individual day. That is our goal.”

Aside from successfully following up each loss with a win thus far this season, the similarities seemingly end there.

One victory was a blowout of outmatched Mount St. Mary’s. Another a low-scoring dogfight against Northwestern.

And finally a signature win on the road against a Top 10 Ohio State squad.

To the extent there has been a common thread in the three wins, it has been sophomore forward Cody Zeller.

He has either led or been second on the team in scoring in all three games, averaging 20.3 points.

His rebounding totals in such games also eclipse his normal numbers, with 9 rebounds per contest in bounce-back games, including 13 against the Wildcats.

However, Zeller was noticeably outmaneuvered by Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe on Tuesday, scoring just nine points and allowing the bruising Golden Gopher forward to nab 12 rebounds.

Zeller similarly struggled on the glass in IU’s first loss of the season against Butler, when the Bulldogs’ own seven-footer, Andrew Smith, won the clear majority of confrontations on the glass against the more highly touted Hoosier.

The rebounding issues extended to the team as a whole, and coaches responded by making rebounding a particular focus in the following practices.

“The strength of the players in the program is that desire to compete, so the rebounding drills fall along in that same line, where we go after it,” Johnson said. “We notice some technique things that we were trying to improve and will continue to try to improve until we get to the standard that we are looking for.”

Even after winning the rebounding battle in the team’s loss to Illinois—albeit by a narrow 30-26 margin — IU Coach Tom Crean again instituted extra physical practices in addition to team meetings meant to re-focus the team.

“It’s not about bouncing back — it’s about making sure that you’re getting better,” Crean said a day before his team responded with an 81-68 win against Ohio State. “If you spend a lot of time bouncing back and worrying about your mentality, then all of a sudden that cuts into your preparation. That cuts into what you need to do to win the game.”

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