Indiana Daily Student

IU looks to match Pitt's strength

Junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea goes up for basket in IU's game against Texas Southern on Monday at Assembly Hall.
Junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea goes up for basket in IU's game against Texas Southern on Monday at Assembly Hall.

IU Coach Tom Crean’s teams have a history of playing up — or down — to their competition.

IU has beaten 16 ranked teams since the 2011-12 season, second most in the country. Even in a disappointing 2013-14 season, the Hoosiers picked up four wins against ranked opponents.

It’s also lost to doormats, with Eastern Washington the most recent example.

Crean often draws criticism for his on-court tactics, substitution patterns and struggles against zone defense, but he often gets the best out of his team in ?big games.

In IU’s 63-52 win against then-No. 10 Michigan last season, Crean completely altered his defensive game plan by changing how his team defended ball screens. The move shut down Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas and held Michigan well below its season average ?in scoring.

“Tom and his staff did a really good job,” Michigan Coach John Beilein said after the game. “The defensive game plan was outstanding. We hadn’t seen anything like it since I’ve been here, and we ended up trying to adjust on the fly.”

Crean will have to work his magic again Tuesday night, when a talented Pittsburgh squad comes to Assembly Hall as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

IU’s main concern will be rebounding, Crean said. The Hoosiers have struggled on the glass this season, being outrebounded in three of their six games. The Panthers bring size and a tenacity that makes them effective rebounders, Crean said.

“We’re going to see some just absolute nastiness on that glass,” he said. “I mean, they are relentless.”

Pittsburgh is the country’s 19th-tallest team, according to kenpom.com . IU is No. 208 in that category.

IU’s lack of size inside — 6-foot-6 Collin Hartman or 6-foot-7 Troy Williams often play center — will be tested by Pittsburgh.

The Panthers are led in both points and rebounds by sophomore Michael Young, a 6-foot-9 forward. He is averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds this season.

“Michael Young is a hard matchup for anybody but especially for us,” Crean said. “By looking at their different games, you could see Michael Yong was on the cusp on being just a great player, and his statistics and the way he’s played definitely ?show that.”

To help combat Young, IU will rely more heavily on freshman forward Emmitt Holt, who has played sparingly since returning from suspension two weeks ago. The 6-foot-7 forward has been effective in limited minutes, pulling down seven rebounds in just 17 minutes.

Crean said he’ll give Holt more minutes in response to Pittsburgh’s physical brand of basketball.

“We’re going to need him in there,” he said. “We’re ?going to need him in the middle of the mix, so to speak.

So there’s no question he’ll be out there.”

Crean said he knows his team is young — there are no seniors on IU’s roster this season — so early-season results will be taken with a grain of salt. For IU, games against opponents such as Pittsburgh are as much about experience as they are about wins.

“We’re certainly going to see more of it over the next couple of weeks,” Crean said. “And in the long run it gets you prepared for the night in, night out of the Big Ten.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that, but we want to win the game ... this Pitt game is another big part of the process for us.”

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