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​COLUMN: IU figuring itself out in Blackmon Jr.'s absence



crean

Head Coach Tom Crean yells instructions during IU's game against Ohio State on Sunday at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers won 85-60. James Benedict and James Benedict Buy Photos

When a person goes blind, it’s said the other senses become enhanced. The ability to hear, feel, taste and smell all become better as a result of losing one’s vision.

Nobody is going blind here, but IU did lose sophomore guard James 
Blackmon Jr.

Without the star shooter, though, the Hoosiers have gone on a four-game tear to start the Big Ten season and they are doing just about everything 
better.

IU is passing better than ever. More importantly, it is defending with heart and consistency. It’s dominating teams on the boards.

I won’t stand in the hot-take corner of saying losing Blackmon makes this team better. He’s one of the best shooters in the country.

I will say everyone else is playing better to compensate for his loss.

Players like freshman forward OG Anunoby are breaking out into stars. Sophomore guard Robert Johnson’s defense and passing are paying dividends in a bigger role, despite not being healthy himself.

IU Coach Tom Crean has been quick to state how IU earns much less spacing without Blackmon on the floor.

So how can the Hoosiers compensate for that? Ball movement.

IU drove and dished out very efficiently Sunday. Also, it has been passing the ball inside far better than it did in November.

Ohio State’s defense entered the game ranked No. 16 in adjusted efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Opponents were held to .93 points per possession against the Buckeyes.

Without Blackmon, the Hoosiers put up 85 points and 48 in the first half.

It’s not clear whether Ohio State is a particularly good team.

It lost to teams such as Louisiana Tech and UT-Arlington but went on to defeat then-No.4 Kentucky and was riding a seven-game win streak.

None of these four Big Ten wins are overly convincing on their own.

The point of progress may be that the Hoosiers are simply taking care of business during conference games it should win, which has rarely been the case in the Crean era.

It benefits IU that it doesn’t play any of the upper-echelon Big Ten teams until the middle of 
February.

It can develop and learn what it wants to be in Blackmon’s absence.

Thus far, it appears IU wants to be a tougher, more relentless team.

It doesn’t quite add up that the ball is moving better than ever without a shooter like Blackmon on the floor.

There is less room for error and less space to move around.

Yet the Hoosiers had 18 assists and only 12 turnovers Sunday, the kind of ratio they have rarely had this season.

It doesn’t quite add up, unless we add that IU is playing harder and 
smarter.

I’m sure IU didn’t want the lesson to come at the expense of a star player, but maybe Blackmon’s injury lit a fire under the team.

These four Big Ten wins have brought out a different basketball team than the one I saw in the first 13 games.

Crean said it best. A team can trick itself when it’s playing well and it can trick itself when it’s playing poorly.

Right now, this team is playing well. It might trick itself down the road, but currently people like senior guard Yogi Ferrell are seeing what this team 
can be.

“We can go out there and be great,” Ferrell said.

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