For that reason, Crean doesn’t tinker with his starting five. The Hoosiers have sent just two different lineups out to center court this season and have used the same group in each of their last 11 games.
Crean said he considered making a change for last Saturday’s game against Ohio State but decided 30 minutes before tipoff against it.
“I’m not really thinking about the starting lineup,” Crean said. “I really don’t put a lot of extra time into that.”
IU starts with a familiar lineup and then adjusts.
Emphasis on consistency in the starting lineup makes IU’s bench of greater importance. If one of the usual starting five aren’t producing, it’s up to the bench.
Crean has a quick trigger when it comes to substitutions. If the five on the floor aren’t doing their jobs, he’s not hesitant to make a change.
“There’s always moving parts in the game, and that’s not going to change,” Crean said. “The only thing that’s constant is there’s going to be change in the game.”
Because a bench player could be put in at any moment, Crean said, it’s important the player be in the right state of mind.
“Come in and add to the flow,” he said. “Come in and impact the game. Don’t come in and take away from what we’re doing.”
IU’s bench has been able to do that this season. Ten different Hoosiers play at least 9.7 minutes per game with the bench playing almost 35 percent of IU’s minutes.
A spark off the bench kept IU close when the starting lineup faltered out of the gate against No. 22 Ohio State. With the offense stalled and IU down 9-2, Crean pulled three of his starters, replacing them with junior Nick Zeisloft and sophomores Collin Hartman and Stanford Robinson.
The change worked. Hartman and Zeisloft each made a layup, then Hartman tipped an Ohio State pass out of bounds at the other end. The Assembly Hall crowd came to life. When Zeisloft made a 3-pointer on IU’s next possession, the game was back on.
Hartman said the Hoosiers don’t distinguish between starters and bench players. It’s everybody’s job to help the team win, he said — the starting lineup doesn’t matter.
“It’s not a factor,” he said. “It’s just a game. Somebody’s got to do it.”
Even with Crean’s reluctance to switch starting lineups, his hand might be forced for tonight’s game against Penn State.
Regular starter Hanner Mosquera-Perea has totaled four points and two rebounds in his last two games. The junior has picked up his second foul within the game’s first two minutes in each and has been a non-factor. Freshman Emmitt Holt, meanwhile, has been a consistent performer on both ends of the floor in relief of Mosquera-Perea.
Should Mosquera-Perea be relegated to the bench, it won’t signal the end of his time in Crean’s rotation.
“It’s all about momentum, and somebody’s got to capture it,” Crean said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a starter or somebody coming off ?the bench.”