Louisville held Savannah State scoreless for the opening 16 minutes of what became an 87-26 blowout Nov. 24. The Tigers missed their first 21 field goal attempts and were blocked five times during the scoreless drought.
Savannah State’s two field goals was nearly the worst performance in NCAA history had it not been for an earlier Savannah State team managing just one made field goal in a previous game.
That very same Savannah State team, currently ranked No. 256 in the RPI, will be at Assembly Hall on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff against IU (6-1). And although the Tigers (3-5) have had their struggles, IU Coach Tom Crean said he wants to carry to momentum of the intensity his team has been playing with.
“The bottom line, like I said to them, we have to come out as prepared for Savannah State as we were for Pittsburgh,” Crean said. “Same thing when we go into New York (to play Louisville) next week. These are going to be great teams and we have a long way to go before we’re one of those teams.”
Part of what may be holding IU back from being the top-level team Crean wants IU to be is a recent inability to put opponents away in the second half.
In IU’s most recent wins against Pittsburgh and UNCG, the Hoosiers nearly let their opponents back into the game late in the second half. IU’s 23-point lead against Pittsburgh dwindled to as little as 10 before IU was able to close it out. Against UNCG, IU saw a 22-point lead evaporate to single digits in the closing minutes.
Sophomore guard Rob Johnson said IU is working on not allowing its foot to be lifted off the gas late in games. When the Hoosiers build a lead, Johnson said the team needs to be pushing to increase it even further and bury opponents, not allowing for them to climb back into contention.
“It’s easy to get relaxed, take your foot off the gas,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the most important thing — keep the intensity up, or turn it up a notch so you don’t have that falloff. You can continue to expand ?the lead.”
Savannah State is only averaging 55.7 points per game and allowing opponents to score 73.1 points per game. For reference, Indiana is averaging 87.4 points per game and allowing just 72.1.
The Tigers are led in scoring by senior guard Terel Hall, who is averaging 10 points per game while also forcing a team-high 15 steals on the season. They’ve also been getting a spark from sophomore guard Alante Fenner who is second in the team in scoring with nine points per game.
The Savannah State matchup could understandably be overlooked between games against Pittsburgh and Louisville, but Crean said IU can’t afford to overlook the Tigers. The matchup is yet another opportunity for IU to work on building consistent play, regardless of the opponent.
“What they’ve got to learn now is that there’s SMU, there’s Pittsburgh, then there’s some other teams that maybe aren’t household names to them,” Crean said after IU’s win against Pittsburgh. “There’s some other teams on the horizon that are household names. You’ve got to come that way every game.”