“We have a lot of respect for this team,” IU Coach Tom Crean said Monday. “That’s why we scheduled them.”
IU went 4-1 during its tour of Canada in 2014, falling 109-101 to Ottawa — one of the best university teams in the country — in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, while playing with a 24-second shot clock. Now the Gee-Gees will travel south of the U.S.-Canadian border to play the Hoosiers on their home floor.
While the shorter shot clock in Canada allows for more offensive possessions, the level of scoring in last year’s matchup was no fluke. Through its first nine games, Ottawa (8-1) averaged 94.6 points per game on 49.7 percent shooting, while IU is projected to have the second-most efficient offense in the country.
Six Ottawa players are averaging at least 8.8 points per game, led by point guard Mike L’Africain at 16.6 points per contest. When the two schools last met, L’Africain scored a team-high 27 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
As a team, the Gee-Gees are shooting better than 42 percent from 3-point range. Ottawa recently attempted 48-of-68 shots from behind the arc during a game, Crean said.
“I think they move the ball extremely well,” he said. “They can play out of the post where they try to create some four-around-one to create some isolation in the post, get you to over-help and kick it out. Their whole offense is predicated on penetrate and kick, getting you to over-help, and they’re very quick in transition.”
When IU fell to Ottawa, the Hoosiers were without a true rim protector, and they lacked size in the post. Six-foot-seven junior wing Troy Williams played more minutes than the rest of IU’s forwards.
Despite the dismissals of three frontcourt players in the offseason, IU still added McDonald’s All-American center Thomas Bryant, Big Ten veteran Max Bielfeldt and 6-foot-8 freshmen Juwan Morgan and O.G. Anunoby.
IU Assistant Coach Rob Judson, who was promoted from director of Basketball Operations during the offseason, said IU is hopeful the defensive presence of Bryant in the paint will pay dividends throughout the team’s defense.
Collin Hartman, IU’s one returning player who, Crean said consistently defended the post last season, is questionable for Tuesday night after suffering a rib injury in October.
“We’re dealing with the aches and the pains and recoveries and things of that nature right now,” Crean said.
He said he is unsure if Hartman will be available to play, while adding that the coaching staff will manage the minutes of several other players.
Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr., who Crean said is still dealing with soreness after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason, and IU’s freshmen will be under close watch so their health is managed with the entire season in mind.
IU has played two intersquad scrimmages in front of its home fans, but Tuesday will provide the Hoosiers their first test in a game-like environment against opponents not wearing cream or crimson jerseys. Judson said the Hoosiers are a multi-position team with interchangeable parts, so IU’s players will be put in different positions, without the final result counting for or against the team’s record.
“I think as these two games come up you’ll see a lot of different rotations,” Judson said. “We have some versatile players that can do some different things, so Coach Crean is excellent at the matchup game, seeing where different positions that we have good matchups in can be exploited. That’s something that you want to work on in these exhibition games.”
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