____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>DAYTON, Ohio - Obscure as they may be, several historical tidbits could nonetheless be troubling for the Hoosiers entering Sunday's tilt against Temple with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.In the 19 times a No. 1 seed has fallen in the round of 32, it has thrice happened in Dayton, the most of any host city.It gets worse.In two of those cases, the team pulling the upset hailed from Philadelphia, just as the Owls do.IU takes on Temple, led by explosive senior guard Khalif Wyatt, Sunday at 2:45 p.m. EDT. The ninth-seeded Owls upset eight-seeded North Carolina State Friday, staking an 18-point halftime lead and holding on to win 76-72."They epitomize toughness to me because they extend possessions, they get back, they make it tough for you to score, they move the ball, they can drive it," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "You certainly have to get ready for how good their players are, and it's a tall task. There's no doubt about it."Associate Head Coach Steve McClain began scouting the Owls almost as soon as IU's draw was revealed on Selection Sunday. Any study of Temple begins with Wyatt, the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year.The senior leads his team with 20.2 points per game and has a proclivity for getting to the foul line with just short of 40 percent of his team's free throws (200-of-504). He has shot 83.3 percent from the stripe this season."We've just kept trying to look for any similarities that we can bring to our team from our league, and it starts real quick when you get with Wyatt, and you can start making comparisons to Trey Burke and how he plays and how much the ball is in his hands, and not only the way that he shoots it but the way that he delivers it," Crean said. "And we're used to that. Khalif Wyatt takes a backseat to no one in the country right now when it comes to being a complete guard."Wyatt's status for Sunday's game was briefly thrown in doubt Friday after he suffered a thumb injury in the first half against the Wolfpack and aggravated it in the second period. He had it taped for practice said it remained sore Saturday but will not prevent him from playing against IU.At 6-foot-4-inches and 210 pounds, Wyatt figures to be primarily defended by junior guard Victor Oladipo. Neither player was an especially heralded recruit out of high school, but each has come to figure prominently in conference player of the year discussions."He does a lot of good things well, a lot of different things in order to score the ball," Oladipo said. "If I get drawn to him in an assignment, I'm going to have to do a good job of slowing him down in order for us to win."Beyond Wyatt, Temple claims four players that average between nine and 11.6 points per game. Among the group is forward Jake O'Brien, who transferred from Boston University and has faced several of the more veteran Hoosiers while at his past school. He averages 9.6 points per game this season primarily coming off the bench.Besides him, though, the Owls often employ a short bench, including against the Wolfpack. With IU able to largely rest its starters and regular contributors against James Madison, fatigue could come into play for Temple."We played a lot of guys yesterday, but this time of year, you get a lot of adrenaline," sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. "I don't feel like I get too tired in games like this just because they're such big games. I don't think it should be that big of a deal."On paper, the teams boast a number of remarkably similar statistics in categories such as assists, steals and blocks.However, IU holds a noticeable edge in rebounding margin, the Hoosiers winning board battles by an average of 7.8 rebounds per game this season while the Owls are typically outrebounded by 1.6.Three players average between 6.8 and 6.1 rebounds for them, but no one else provides more than 3.3."I think we're going to have an even bigger challenge tomorrow because Zeller is a big guy," Temple forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson said. "He gets a lot of rebounds, and everyone on their team crashes the boards as well."Sunday's game is one of two in the round of 32 that matches teams from the Big Ten against the Atlantic 10, the tournament's two most successful conferences in the second round with records of 6-1 and 6-0 respectively."Each league is really competitive," Dunphy said. "I think ours this year was absolutely superb... But I don't think it's any different than most leagues. We're playing against a Big Ten team, and it's a great, great league, top to bottom.”Temple has been an enigma this season, playing in the Atlantic 10 and even posting a win against dangerous VCU. At the same time, though, the Owls have a puzzling loss to Duquesne on their record and lost by 23 points to Duke in one of its few major conference tests."We know we're playing against a team that can compete with anybody in the country because they have, when you look at the people that they have played this year," Crean said. "It's like a who's who of people that are in the NCAA Tournament, when you start to look at Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, and certainly the people that are in their league."Entering IU's NCAA opener against James Madison, players and coaches alike noted the Dukes' plethora of seniors. Likewise, the Owls have a number of veterans, often a hallmark of mid-major teams still in contention in late March."We know Temple's been in this tournament for the last six years, so we know they've got a lot of experience, a lot of tournament experience," senior forward Christian Watford said. "But any team playing around this time of year is a great tough team, so you really can't take them lightly or anything like that."Dating back to last season, IU has posted at least 40 points per half in its last eight halves in the NCAA tournament. Dunphy said playing a high-scoring team like the Wolfpack on Friday will not necessarily help his team against the speedy Hoosiers, though."One of the concerns about Indiana is that they push the basketball on makes and misses and they have great transition game and they find each other very, very well," Dunphy said. "So we have to be prepared for any style of game tomorrow."IU has not played Temple since 2003 and trails the overall series between the two tradition-rich programs 5-4. Both rank in the top 10 all-time for victories, with Temple sixth and IU 10th.With Temple President Neil Theobald - until December the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for IU - in attendance, IU will look to even the all-time score and avenge a Temple win in the teams' last meeting."That's the beauty of this tournament, there's so many good teams," Oladipo said. "If you're in this tournament and playing at this time, you've got to be good, which is why you've got to be ready to play every night."
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____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>DAYTON, Ohio - For all the buzz about IU's undeniable size advantage against James Madison, it was IU's shortest starter serving as catalyst for a "Big Dance" blowout Friday.Freshman guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell scored IU's first nine points as IU took the lead early and never trailed in its NCAA Tournament opener in Dayton, Ohio, winning 83-62 and advancing to play ninth-seeded Temple on Sunday."There’s no need for extra motivation in the NCAA Tournament," sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. "You can’t take any team lightly. It’s win or go home. We’re playing for our lives here."Ferrell, all of 6-foot-0-inches and 178 pounds and playing in his first NCAA Tournament, led IU with 16 points. Building on his opening spree, he scored 14 of IU's first 16 points. With eight rebounds and six assists, both of which led his team, Ferrell's contributions were not limited to scoring alone."It’s a big key for us that he can rebound, just because it cuts a few seconds off our break and we can get out and run," Zeller said. "Our offense is definitely going to move fast if he can get the rebound and go."With Ferrell attacking on both jumpers and drives up the lane, IU jumped to a quick 9-0 lead, eclipsing his season scoring average of 7.8 in less than four minutes."I was just trying to push the ball in transition really and find openings," Ferrell said. "The lane kind of just opened up for me, and I just kept attacking at the beginning. When they closed it up, I'd just kick out. So those first early drives really helped us."With Ferrell having started every game this season for IU, including a rigorous Big Ten slate, Zeller said he no longer sees his teammate as a freshman and only one thing would really surprise him at this point.“I would be surprised if he could dunk it," Zeller said. "You can tell him I said that."The Dukes did not score until 3:45 in, and by then the damage was done. Another Hoosier finally got on the board as Zeller responded with a dunk almost instantly.At 7-feet, Zeller stood six inches taller than any JMU starter and was able to take advantage, weaving inside for a early offensive rebounds.IU's other consistent post presence, senior forward Christian Watford, tried to take advantage of JMU's smaller lineup as well, but found the Dukes collapsing on him almost every time he entered the paint.Instead, he scored his only bucket of the first half by stepping outside, draining a 3-pointer that put IU up 24-10.The shot pushed him past Brian Evans for 10th all-time on the school's career scoring list and gave him more than 1700 career points in his four years at IU. He finished with nine points.With JMU focusing on Watford, Zeller and now Ferrell, the IU lead continued to grow as other players picked up where Ferrell left off.IU's size and athleticism, evident in crafty maneuvering from junior guard Victor Oladipo and junior forward Will Sheehey, helped the Hoosiers speed up the pace and pull away, pushing the lead to 29-10 in the first half."I knew they’d be double-teaming or triple-teaming me to start with," Zeller said. "I just tried to be aggressive, find the open shooter. I don’t care if I’m the one that scores. It was definitely a focus for them to get it out of my hands."JMU players were doubled over, hands on their knees, at nearly every stoppage of play, clearly winded in a way they never were in their opening matchup with LIU Brooklyn Wednesday evening.Fortunately for them, though, IU's shooting went cold for several minutes and the ball bounced the Dukes' way for several offensive rebounds, their physicality seemingly disrupting IU as planned.JMU closed within 14 points, at 34-20, before a reinvigorated IU team pulled away once again on a 9-0 run, all points coming from either Sheehey and senior guard Jordan Hulls.Ferrell finally missed a shot early in the second half. He would up missing another three in a row, and indeed became more of a distributor in the period, with three second-half assists.Instead, IU's junior wings led the charge, showcasing an athleticism JMU simply could not match as the IU fast break got back into gear and pushed the lead to 30, where it would hover for much of the second half.The Dukes were forced to resort once more to their physicality, committing 11 second-half fouls. One in particular showcased JMU's desperation.Less than five minutes into the second half, Oladipo stole the ball - giving him IU's single-season steals record with 75 - and had a seemingly clear path across the length of the court to the basket.As he approached the hoop and launched into the air, JMU's Alioune Diouf fouled him hard in the back and sent Oladipo tumbling. The crowd groaned as it was denied the spectacle of an Oladipo jam. Undeterred, Oladipo made both free throws and continued to lead the charge.With less than eight and a half minutes to go, Oladipo drove for another layup. Moments later, Sheehey intercepted the JMU inbounds pass and leaped for a layup of his own.With more reserves entering the game for IU, the Dukes sliced several points off the lead, but never got within less than 21 points.By the time sophomore guard Remy Abell shot free throws with less than two minutes remaining, no starters were still in for IU. Abell sank both, and several more free throws help sew up IU's most lopsided victory in more than a month."Just running up the court, just running the breaks is just a lot of fun, especially to get this win, our first win, especially my first win, my first game," Ferrell said. "But just to be out there and play with these guys was just a lot of fun."
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Save for the freshmen, IU’s tournament opener Friday against James Madison is devoid of the novelty last season’s return to the Big Dance had.The players have been here before, and this time, they will not be content simply with the experience.“It was the first time for all of us, and we didn’t know what it felt like to get here,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. “Now that we have, we want to build on that and make sure we make a deeper run and do the things that we didn’t do last year very well.”IU begins its NCAA Tournament slate at roughly 4:10 p.m. EDT in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dukes, a defensive-minded Colonial Athletic Association champion led by stocky senior power forward Rayshawn Goins and athletic freshman guard Andre Nation.Veteran-laden JMU earned a shot at IU after slowing down LIU Brooklyn on Wednesday in Dayton, freeing the Hoosiers from the limbo of not knowing their opponent after Selection Sunday.Similar to what he did as IU waited for its first Big Ten tournament opponent, IU Coach Tom Crean had his squad focus on similarities between the teams, as well as IU’s own strategies and execution, as it waited to see which of two vastly contrasting styles of basketball it would face.“They’re athletic, they’re skilled, they’re certainly experienced when you look at all the fifth-year guys that they have,” Crean said. “They do a great job of blending their experience with their young freshmen, and it’s been really interesting to watch the cohesiveness develop in that team as we’ve watched the films... We have great respect for James Madison.”Though Goins’ first-half suspension against LIU drew the headlines going in, the Dukes’ win against the Blackbirds ultimately proved to be a showcase of sorts for Nation. The freshman finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, drawing comparisons to none other than IU junior guard Victor Oladipo, who is likely to guard Nation on Friday.“He does a lot of things well, whether it be on-ball defending or blocking shots or things like that,” Oladipo said. “We’re going to have to match his intensity.”Friday’s game marks the first time this calendar year that IU plays a team outside the Big Ten. Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo commented last week that he would rather face the Los Angeles Lakers than another Big Ten team, and IU players and coaches admitted the change will be refreshing.“Big Ten (play) prepared us well for whoever we could see, whether it’s up-pace teams, 3-point shooting teams, slow it down teams,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “I think we’ve really seen every style we might see in the tournament, and it’s prepared us well just because every team in the Big Ten is so good and so competitive that I think we’ll be ready for anything.”IU has faced JMU only once before — an 84-52 win in 1987 — but the Hoosiers nonetheless share a few connections with their foes.JMU sophomore guard Arman Marks was a high school teammate at Eastern High School in Louisville, Ky., with IU sophomore guard Remy Abell.The Dukes also boast Mike Deane as a first-year assistant on their coaching staff. Deane was Crean’s predecessor as head coach at Marquette from 1994-99.“Matt Brady is an excellent coach, and he’s got Mike Deane on his staff, who’s one of the best coaches in this game,” Crean said. “I know what kind of character he has, and I know what kind of players and people he recruited and how he coached them because I got to inherit those guys.”IU was favored to emerge from the first weekend last year as well, but a No. 1 seed is a different animal that brings with it added pressure. The goal is the Final Four and a championship, Oladipo said, and anything short of that would be seen as a failure.“We’ve been through a lot, and we expect nothing but the best,” Oladipo said. “We’re going to go into this tournament and try and win it. Any loss before then would be a disappointment because our main goal is to win the tournament, take it one game at a time, and just play together and have fun … and play Indiana basketball.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Not knowing its first opponent in a tournament is not new to IU. The Hoosiers dealt with the same scenario last week at the Big Ten tournament, waiting for either Minnesota or Illinois to emerge. However, IU Coach Tom Crean noted similarities between the two teams, which added in preparation.That was not the case Wednesday as IU waited and watched as James Madison defeated LIU-Brooklyn 68-55 in a battle of contrasting styles. IU now waits to play JMU Friday at 4:10 p.m. ET.“Our seniors played great, and our freshmen were really good at both ends of the court,” JMU Coach Matt Brady said in a television interview. “They really challenged shots at the rim.”It was the first NCAA win for the Dukes in 30 years.LIU runs an up-tempo system that resulted in only a half-point less per game than IU.JMU, on the other hand, boasts a veteran team that is slower and more physical.However, the Dukes’ leading scorer, forward Rayshawn Goins, was arrested Sunday and suspended by the team for Wednesday’s first half.Initially, it appeared his teammates were just fine without him, jumping to leads of 10-2, then 20-8 as the Blackbirds opened with cold shooting.In the first half’s closing minutes, though, LIU’s zone defense picked off several lazy JMU passes, finally allowing the Blackbirds to sprint down the floor and quickly claw back into the game. A jumper off a steal was just a split-second too late at the half’s end. Had it been on time, LIU would have had its first lead.Even with Goins back in the second half, LIU finally pulled ahead 40-39, but the lead would be short-lived.Though Goins never found a rhythm in his curtailed appearance, guard Andre Nation was all over the court in the second half, helping prompt a 9-0 run that put the Dukes up for good.Nation finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and could potentially be guarded by junior guard Victor Oladipo, another guard with rebounding skills, on Friday.“(Nation) was tremendous at both ends,” Brady said. “He’s got a chance to be a special defensive player.”Crean mentioned Sunday that he hoped to send an assistant coach to scout the game in person. However, NCAA rules do not allow for that, and the Hoosiers were forced to watch from home along with the rest of the nation.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>With the start of the NCAA Tournament days away, Wisconsin has provided the nation’s teams with a bold reminder of one way to fell mighty IU.Saturday’s 68-56 loss was the Hoosiers’ most lopsided of the season and their 12th in a row against the Badgers, proof once again that the Badgers have their number.In essence, the defeat was a showcase of the hallmarks of that streak: physical defense, timely shooting, careful shot selection and control of the game’s pace throughout.“It seems like going to the hole, we’re not really getting the foul we want and we’re not really hitting the shots that we want to,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said. “It’s tough, but at the same time, we’ve got to withstand all that and continue to keep playing defense.”A trademark of Wisconsin’s style, perhaps above all others, is the tempo, or rather the lack of it, as they often slow the game to a plod.“They have been trying to slow it down on us all year,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “We always want to speed up the pace, and you know, with our pressure, if we are getting after them on the defensive end, getting deflections, then that’s how we want to play. We didn’t do enough of that and enough to speed up the pace, which is why we got beat.”Elements of Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan’s system have permeated throughout the Hoosiers’ defeats all year.In IU’s first loss of the season, Butler similarly slowed the tempo from IU’s preferred pace.Illinois succeeded in disrupting IU’s momentum, keeping IU from pulling away with scoring sprees despite opportunities to do so.Minnesota crashed the boards and physically beat down the Hoosiers in IU’s road loss in Minneapolis.Yet no team has been able to defeat IU quite like Wisconsin. With the Badger’s strategy accounting for a third of IU’s losses, players admitted it is only natural for potential NCAA opponents to look to Wisconsin for a blueprint for how to attack IU.However, Oladipo is not so sure any other team has quite the personnel to flummox the Hoosiers as the Badgers do, even if they try.“I think a lot of team might do that,” Oladipo said. “I’m not sure if a lot of teams have the same players (Wisconsin does) and like to play like they do. Some teams might apply that.”IU Coach Tom Crean said he is confident moving forward. The flaws of the defeat are all correctable, he said, from a lapse in 3-point shot defense to an inability to perpetuate momentum against the Badgers.Wisconsin simply remains good at what they do, and Crean does not see that stopping any time soon.“They are a very good team, extremely well-coached, disciplined, great staff, inside outside scoring, great balance and just an all-around great team,” Crean said. “They are an excellent team and have been for a long, long time. As long as he’s the coach there, they will be.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The road to the Final Four will not run through Indianapolis, at least not for IU.Louisville rode a 10-game winning streak and a Big East Tournament title to the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. That accolade placed the Cardinals in the Midwest Region, featuring regional semifinal and final games in Indianapolis.IU was relegated to the No. 1 seed in the east region that plays fourth- and fifth-round games in Washington, D.C. The Hoosiers will open the tournament Friday in Dayton, Ohio, against the winner of a play-in game between LIU-Brooklyn and James Madison.“It definitely feels good to be a one seed,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “Where we came from to where we are now is a big step for us and we have a tough road ahead of us. Every team that we have to beat is going to be good. It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”The tipoff time for IU’s first game will be at approximately 4:10 p.m. Friday.This marks just IU’s third No. 1 seed in history. The team had one in 1987 when it won its last title and again in 1993 when the Hoosiers reached the Elite 8.Kansas and Gonzaga garnered the other two No. 1 seeds.IU’s potential opening opponents will play at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton. LIU Brooklyn (20-13) made the tournament by virtue of winning the Northeast Conference tournament. The Blackbirds defeated IU opponent Mount St. Mary’s 91-70 on the final.James Madison (20-14) was also an automatic qualifier for the tournament after winning the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament as the third seed. The veteran Dukes employ a much slower game plan, averaging 65.2 points per game and allowing 64.8.Two teams that have defeated IU, Butler and Illinois, are in the Hoosiers’ bracket as the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds, respectively. Every team that defeated IU this season made the tournament field, none lower than No. 11 seed Minnesota.Miami is the No. 2 seed in IU’s region, while Marquette, Crean’s former school, is No. 3 and Syracuse is No. 4.If IU wins it’s first game, it will play either North Carolina State or Temple.Either way, players said they are looking forward to seeing teams from beyond the Big Ten for a change.“We’ve definitely beaten each other up all year,” senior forward Christian Watford said. “Any chance you get to play somebody else, it feels good.”After IU, the Big Ten’s highest seed is No. 2 Ohio State, followed by No. 3 Michigan State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Wisconsin and the aforementioned Illinois and Minnesota.Other in-state teams in the field include Butler, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 14 Valparaiso.Former Hoosier Steve Alford’s New Mexico Lobos are a No. 3 seed.Any of these teams could theoretically oppose IU down the line, but for now, the path to a sixth banner begins in Dayton on Friday, every game potentially the team’s last from this point on.“You’re only guaranteed one more game, so every team is going go out and prepare the best they can and play their hearts out,” Hulls said. “Every team in the tournament is going to do that, so you’ve got to approach it with that mindset of one game at a time.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>When a pair of D.J. Richardson free throws pulled Illinois within single digits of IU for the first time n the second half, the Pandora's box that plagued IU in its February upset to Illinois seemed on the verge once again.However, history would not repeat itself.IU scored five straight points to make the lead double-digits for good, then boosted the margin by consistently converting free throws. When junior guard Victor Oladipo slammed home a whirlwind dunk off an IU breakaway, the box was shut and sealed for good. The Hoosiers would soon have their largest lead of the day.That late run, combined with first half dominance in the paint put No. 3 IU in front early and the Hoosiers never trailed on their way to a 80-64 drubbing of Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center in Chicago."We defended at a very high level to hold a really good shooting team and a high scoring team when they get their offense rolling the way they're capable of, to hold them down in this game," IU Coach Tom Crean said. "Our whole focus was getting ready to play our best basketball today and hopefully we play even better basketball tomorrow."Buoyed by 40 paints in the paint and a 38-26 edge on the glass, IU avenged it's Feb. 7 last-second upset in Champaign, Ill., in the process earning the team's first Big Ten semifinal appearance since 2006.Sophomore forward Cody Zeller led the charge with 24 points as five Hoosiers reached double-figures. Junior guard Victor Oladipo posted his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.IU attacked the post early and often. Senior guard Jordan Hulls passed up a chance for his customary long jumper in favor of driving for a layup. His miss was swiftly put back by Zeller for the game's first score.Hulls was not among IU's balanced scoring attack. He finished with just a single point off of a free throw, but also posted seven assists and three steals, helping to jump-start and facilitate the fast break attack throughout.Despite consistent early penetration to the paint, though, IU was stymied by physical defense--resulting in several hard fouls-- and out-of-bounds turnovers in the paint.The Illini, by contrast, settled mostly for long jumpers which clanged out of the basket in a 1-of-8 start. Junior forward Will Sheehey helped IU jump to a slow 10-2 lead due in part to a scoreless 6:07 from Illinois.However, IU was nearly as stagnant offensively during much of that stretch. At one point, freshman guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell briefly lost track of the shot clock, tossing up an air ball at the buzzer.On IU's next possession, though, Ferrell redeemed himself with a drive around the left of the lane. Finding himself behind the entire Illinois defense, he converted the easy layup.That seemed to signal a renewed commitment to attacking the paint, led by Zeller, even as IU encountered flurries of shoulders and elbows each time it got inside."It's a priority for us every game, whether it's me or Christian getting it inside," Zeller said. "They were double teaming, so I was trying to find the open guy. But even if I don't score it, it opens up a lot of things for our shooters on the outside, and I thought we did a nice job of that and it opened up a lot."On nearly every possession, be it a half court set or IU breakaway, the ball found itself in Zeller's hands under the hoop. The consistency allowed IU to push the pace to its desired speedy tempo and, if anything, past that point. On several occasions, Zeller tuned the ball over on the fast break in the pain, either on traveling or a fumble out of bounds.Still, the pace nonetheless swung squarely in IU's favor as the half wore on, with Zeller taking an active role."He's a terrific player," Illinois Coach Jhon Groce said. "He's very versatile. One of the things he does really well, exceptionally well for a guy his size, is run. He can really run."At a timeout, the game slowed and allowed Illinois to somewhat close the gap. After taking 14:36 to reach double digits and trailing by as many as 17 points, the Illini pulled within 12 of IU before a short Zeller jumper put IU up by 14 at the break.??After making just a single 3-pointer in the first half, Illinois hit a pair early in the half and closed within 10. IU responded with a continued onslaught of the paint keyed by Zeller and, of all players, Ferrell.Nursing an 11-point lead though, IU seemed to abruptly change tactics on offense. Like Illinois, IU made only one 3-pointer in the first half. The Hoosiers sank three of them, however, in a 4:05 stretch midway through the second period.Illinois would soon pull within eight on Richardson's foul shots, but never any closer.Richardson's 2-of-10 day was far from the only offensive letdown for the Illini. Primarily guarded by Oladipo, Brandon Paul neared his team-leading season average with 16 points, but needed 11-of-12 free throw shooing to get there. He was just 2-of-13 from the field.Meanwhile, IU recovered from its own cold start to finish 27-50 from the field, many of the shots layups, tip-ins and the like from the paint. The mid-range game was virtually absent for IU. Only 19 of its points did not come from either the paint of the free throw line, and 15 of those were off 3-pointers."He's a great player and we tried to slow him down," Oladipo said. "He takes a lot of shots in order for them to win, so when you go against someone like that you got to force them to take tough shots and I think we did a great job of doing that. Watford said IU's Illinois loss provided a learning experience that helped Friday."We learned from that game," Watford said. "We looked at the film last night and we looked at some things. We know we shouldn't have done some things. We let one get away. We knew what they do and we kept grinding it out and kept playing.Saturday will provide a similar opportunity for revenge. IU plays next at 1:40 p.m. EST against Wisconsin who, like Illinois, beat IU in the teams' sole regular season meeting. The Badgers remain the only conference team the Hoosiers have not beaten this year.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Right now, IU players know they will play at noon Friday in Chicago against a team that beat them the last time out.That’s about it.Illinois and Minnesota will clash Thursday with the winner advancing to play top-seeded IU in Friday’s second round, leaving the Hoosiers to try to solve the intricacies of two teams that outplayed them in just more than the past month."You never like to lose and you like to `get back' or however you want to look at it,” senior guard Jordan Hulls said. “But we are just taking it the same way that we always have. We got better after those losses to both teams and come back play well afterwards. We have to go into this tournament with that mindset."IU is the tournament’s top seed for the first time in school history. Not only that, but this season also marks the first bye in the tournament for anyone on the team. Even the team’s seniors such as Hulls and forward Derek Elston have played a grand total of four Big Ten tournament games leading into this season’s edition.“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Elston said. “Practice has been a little different. We’ve been going over both teams’ plays and players, really examining what moves to get ready for, but we’re still doing hat we do everyday in practice, getting better every day. It’s been a lot of fundamental stuff every day this week. Once we find out who we’ll play, we’ll be ready to go.”Regardless of which team IU ends up facing, it does have the benefit of prior experience—including game film—against both teams. Additionally, both IU Coach Tom Crean and the players have spotted some similarities in the opponents that ease preparation.Junior forward Will Sheehey noted in particular both teams’ propensity for offensive rebounds and effective ball screens.If IU advances through to the championship game per its top seed, it will mark three games in as many days and the most concentrated stretch of the team’s season. The team played games in consecutive days in Novembers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N. Y.Former Purdue coach once said college-aged players are young enough that fatigue does not effect them, but Hulls laughed at the thought Wednesday, saying “that’s not true.”However, sophomore forward Cody Zeller said the team can draw back on its pre-college experience as proof that the quick turnaround is survivable."We obviously don't play a stretch like that during the regular season, but we have played AAU games where it was three or four games in one day,” Zeller said. “I don't think it will bother us too much."Players admitted it took several days to come off the high of clinching an outright Big Ten title Sunday against Michigan and said it still has not entirely sunk in.The conference crown earned IU the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament for the first time ever, and with it, added postseason expectations.“To pull out that tough win at Michigan was huge for our program and huge for our team,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said. “At the same time, we want to accomplish so much more and the Big Ten Tournament is the first step."As he discussed how much was still left to accomplish, Oladipo wondered aloud how long it had been since the Hoosiers won the conference tournament. Informed that they never have, he smiled.“Exactly.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The ending of Tuesday’s 72-71 IU victory that clinched the Hoosiers’ first outright Big Ten since 1993 is what will be remembered in the history books, but none of that would have happened if not for the beginning.Before the missed Michigan free throws, the Cody Zeller tip-in for the lead and the ball slowly rolling off the rim in the waning second of Sunday's game, the Hoosiers began the game with a 10-3 run that gave them both momentum and an idea of how to attack the Wolverines in the Crisler Center.Even when Michigan quickly came back, the early cushion allowed IU to weather the storm, stay in contention all game and set the stage for the last-minute heroics.“We just played,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “It wasn’t perfect. We missed some shots. It was going to be a game of runs and you just have to make sure that you can correct your mistakes. Everything we were doing was correctable.”Just as he did in IU’s regular season opener at Assembly Hall, senior guard Jordan Hulls started the regular season finale by converting a 3-point shot to give IU a 3-0 lead.The teams traded misses on both ends of the court, but junior guard Victor Oladipo broke through for jump shot off of a fast break.Michigan star Trey Burke, in one of only two first-half scores for him, pulled the Wolverines within 5-3, before Oladipo swung a pass to an open Hulls for another 3-pointer.Hulls would score only three more points all game, but his contributions continued to show, particularly as the opening spree continued.The score still 8-3, Burke drove the lane with only Hulls in his way. Crean said the team fully expected Michigan to attack Hull’s defense as a perceived weak link. However, Hulls firmly planted his feet to the floor and allowed Burke to bowl him over and sustain a charging call.The ball back to IU, freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell sank a layup off a Hulls pass to give IU the 10-3 advantage that would end up as its largest of the game even just 3:55 in.Crean opted to go to the bench shortly afterward, the score now 10-5, sophomore guard Remy Abell and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell entering with the benefit of an early cushion.“We were playing for championship,” Hollowell said. “(We had to) come out hard, make a run and just give it our all for this last game.”However, Michigan quickly chipped away at the IU lead, then eclipsed it on a 13-2 run, part of a larger 24-6 momentum switch. IU would trail by as many as 11 points.Even as the run began to gain steam, though, Crean did not put his starters back in and indeed continued to go to the bench. With the game tied 10-10, Crean took out sophomore forward Cody Zeller despite Zeller’s pleas to play the entire game.“That was a big run for them, but it wasn’t like we were playing badly,” Crean said. “We went under a screen. We didn’t get back in transition a couple times. They got themselves going.”As IU focused on collapsing around Michigan penetration attempts in the lane, several Wolverines began to find open shots from beyond the perimeter. Crean said he knew this would be an inevitability to an extent, but that was nonetheless the team’s biggest shortcoming in following its defensive gameplan.Crean pointed out that, offensively during that stretch, IU missed a slew of layups.“When you’re missing those layups, it’s not like they are not going to go at some point,” Crean said. “The law of averages and percentages said those shots were going to go, so no one was concerned about it.”Though not as dramatic as the game’s opening minutes, IU opened the second half with a run as well, turning a three-point halftime deficit into a lead in less than two minutes.Michigan fought back, building its own lead back to six, before Hollowell, who had struggled offensively in the first half scored five consecutive points — on a put-back and a 3-pointer — and another 3-pointer by junior forward Will Sheehey gave IU a 48-46 edge.“I was open, knocked it down,” Hollowell said. “It was a real good feeling to contribute to a win.”Crean said Hollowell has made recent strides in practice and that the freshman’s string in the second half was no surprise.The lead would continue to jump back and forth. However, Crean said his squad remained confident, having already seen its own ability in this game to both weather opposing runs and go on its own tears.“When it was 10-3, I had no doubt that we were here to stay,” Crean said. “When we got down, I had no doubt that we were here to stay.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Despite posting just seven points in No. 2 IU’s upset loss March 5 to No. 14 Ohio State, junior guard Victor Oladipo was named a semifinalist March 7 for the Eddie Sutton Tustenugee award, according to a press release.He currently averages 14 points per game, six rebounds and a team-leading 2.3 steals.The 12 semifinalists were selected by national media members. OSU’s Aaron Craft is the only other Big Ten nominee.Butler’s Matt Howard was the inaugural recipient of the award in 2011.In its third year, the award is named for former Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State Coach Eddie Sutton and honors “the collegiate basketball player who best exhibits the traits of tenacity and unselfishness that Sutton advocated during his Hall of Fame career.” Tustenugee is Muscogee for “warrior.”IU’s losses have often been chalked up to some combination of poor shooting, a lack of physicality or defensive lapses, but statistically, there are few common threads.IU has lost games this season even with a rebounding edge, such as against both Illinois and Wisconsin, or a higher shooting percentage than opponents — an above-season average 50 percent mark against Illinois.The Hoosiers have lost to balanced scoring attacks — five opposing players in double figures for scoring against Butler — and more focused efforts: two players accounting for 59 percent of Illinois’ scoring.The one consistency is turnovers. IU has committed more in all five losses this season, a contrast to season averages. Across 30 contests this year, IU wins the turnover battle by an average ratio of 12.5 to 14.5.Tuesday evening was no exception, with Ohio State committing only eight turnovers while swiping eight steals, several late in the second half as the Buckeyes pulled away. IU Coach Tom Crean chalked up the margin to mental errors and ineffective ball movement.“The good news is all our stuff is correctable,” Crean said. “The bottom line is we have to do that.”With an absolute minimum of three games left this season, senior forward Christian Watford is within striking distance of launching into the top 10 on the school’s career scoring list.He currently sits 11th, 34 points behind Brian Evans. If his present average of 12.7 holds for the next three games, he will pass that mark. Six games at that pace and he would eclipse Damon Baily for seventh.Any rank beyond that is essentially unattainable, with Allan Henderson a full 238 points ahead of Bailey.Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” filmed at IU both in the days leading up to Senior Night and at the festivities themselves.Those wishing to relive IU’s senior ceremonies and the stories of the three seniors can catch the result 8 p.m. ET Sunday on Big Ten Network.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Tipoff was delayed 10 minutes Tuesday in Assembly Hall by wintery conditions outside.At least for now, so was sole possession of the Big Ten crown.With an offense at times as cold as the snowy climate, IU dropped its final home game 67-58 to Ohio State, another team still in the running for a share of the conference title.Though nets were sheared, photos flashed and a trophy awarded for the share of the crown, IU now must win at Michigan Sunday to assure the outright Big Ten title, something IU has not attained since 1993.“The sweet part is, we’ve still got a lot of basketball left,” senior forward Derek Elston said in his post-game Senior Night speech.Seeking to prevent another outburst like his 26 points in the teams’ first meeting, IU employed a number of different defenders on OSU’s Deshaun Thomas.Junior guard Victor Oladipo was assigned to Thomas first, but sustained a second foul less than halfway through the period. Even before that, though, senior forward Christian Watford and sophomore forward Cody Zeller also took turns guarding the Fort Wayne native.Entering the game, his last at home, for the first time shortly after Oladipo was benched, Elston quickly found himself trying to contain Thomas, as well.For the first half, it worked, as Thomas managed just six points. However, as Ohio State stayed neck-and-neck with IU, then pulled away with a 9-0 run for the upset, Thomas was right there, finishing as the team’s leading scorer with 18 points.After trailing in the opening moments, a jumper by Jordan Hulls gave IU a brief lead, but the resulting free throws from Oladipo’s second foul tied the game at 15. IU quickly regained the lead, but could not distance itself by more than a single possession.Less than five minutes later, Zeller sustained his own second foul. IU would play the rest of the half without either player.Watford hit a 3-pointer to give IU a four-point edge, its largest of the half, but the IU offense went cold, missing its final four shots of the half and a pair of free throws. Meanwhile, Ohio State closed with a 7-0 run to lead 28-25 at halftime.Both Oladipo and Zeller returned to start the second half and quickly made their presence known. Oladipo knotted the game with a 3-pointer on IU’s first possession.Seconds later, he muscled through traffic for a defensive board that would become a Watford jump shot that put IU up.Off of 6-of-6 shooting to start the half, IU boosted the lead as high as five points before the Buckeyes began pounding the ball into the post, as Crean had predicted they would, for a series of layups that gave them the lead once again at 44-43."We definitely had the game going the way we wanted in the start of the second half. Then somewhere in between the start of the half and the 12-minute mark it just kind of felt like too many mental errors were stacking on top of each other," Elston said. "Anytime you dwell on one of those, you're just not playing your game anymore, and I think that's what happened tonight."In IU’s victory against OSU in Columbus, Ohio earlier in the season, Oladipo, Watford and Zeller each broke the 20-point mark and shouldered the vast majority of the scoring load.The early moments of Tuesday’s second half were reminiscent of that win. The trio combined for the first 18 IU points of the period.However, the sheer volume of shots by Ohio State kept the visitors ahead as they built their own five-point lead.IU closed within two points at 52-50 after a pair of Zeller free throws before the Buckeye’s unleashed a 9-0 run, this one to give them the largest lead of the game by either team. It was not a matter of IU missing shots, but rather failing to find scoring opportunities to begin with, allowing OSU to snag offensive rebounds and fumbling the ball out of bounds once the Hoosiers did have the ball."We just didn't execute offensively," Hulls said. "We allowed way too many transition buckets, turned the ball over too much, which led to them getting easy buckets. There were some stretches there that we would play really good `D' for the whole shot clock and then they would get a bucket right at the end."When Oladipo coughed up the ball near the perimeter, leading to a breakaway OSU dunk that made it 61-50, IU’s fate seemed sealed.It being senior night, though, IU’s seniors had one final charge in them. A Watford long ball stopped the bleeding, while Hulls cut through the monotony of fouls and free throws with his own 3-pointer that brought IU back within six.With 40.5 second left, IU suddenly had a chance, particularly once the Buckeyes turned the ball over out of bounds under IU’s hoop. IU failed to score on the inbound, though, and in fact would not score again.OSU ran down the clock with a keep-away passing exercise. When freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell managed a last second jumper, it dropped halfway through the hoop, then rattled out. Like IU’s hopes of clinching an outright Big Ten title Tuesday, it seemed all but assured, then fell away.“I know we didn’t have the night we’d have liked, but we’ve still got a share of the Big Ten championship,” Crean said. “We’re all disappointed in the result tonight, but we’re not disappointed in how we got to this point.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>In a Senior Night letdown, IU dropped its final home game of the season to Ohio State, 67-58 on cold shooting and offensive inefficiency.Tipoff was delayed 10 minutes to 9:10 p.m. due to wintery weather.Early misses plagued IU, the team seemingly jittery from the energy of the packed Assembly Hall. Meanwhile, crisp passing staked Ohio State to an early lead.Seeking to prevent another outburst like his 26 points in the teams' first meeting, IU employed a number of different defenders on OSU's Deshaun Thomas.Junior guard Victor Oladipo was assigned to Thomas first, but sustained a second foul less than halfway through the period. Even before that, though, senior forward Christian Watford and sophomore forward Cody Zeller also took turns guarding the Fort Wayne native.Entering the game, his last at home, for the first time shortly after Oladipo was benched, senior forward Derek Elston quickly found himself trying to contain Thomas as well.A Hulls jumper gave a IU brief lead, but the resulting free throws from Oladipo's second foul tied the game at 15. IU quickly regained the lead, but could not distance itself by more than a single possession.Less than five minutes later, Zeller, still IU's leading scorer at the half with eight points sustained his own second foul. IU would play the rest of the half without either player.Watford hit a 3-pointer to give IU a four-point edge, its largest of the half, but the IU offense went as cold at the snowy conditions after that, missing its final four shots of the half and a pair of free throws.Ohio State closed with a 7-0 run to lead 28-25 at halftime, a diving save of the ball by Hulls and IU Coach Tom Crean pumping up the crowd falling short of producing offense for the Hoosiers.Both Oladipo and Zeller returned to start the second half and quickly made their presence known. Oladipo knotted the game with a 3-pointer on IU's first possession.Seconds later, he muscled through traffic for a defensive board that would be come a Watford jump shot that put IU up.Off of 6-of-6 shooting to start the half, IU boosted the lead as high as five points before the Buckeyes began pounding the ball into the post, as Crean had predicted they would, for a series of layups that gave them the lead once again at 44-43.In IU's victory against OSU in Columbus, Ohio earlier in the season, Oladipo, Watford and Zeller each broke the 20-point mark and shouldered the vast majority of the scoring load.The early moments of Tuesday's second half were reminiscent of that win. The trio combined for the first 18 IU points of the period.However, the shear volume of shots by Ohio State kept the visitors ahead as they built their own five-point lead.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU Coach Tom Crean arrived back at the office from attending church with his daughter early Sunday evening, flipped on the TV and watched IU clinch a share of the Big Ten crown for the first time since 2002. There were no crimson-clad Hoosiers on the screen.His players were downstairs on IU’s court at the time, warming up for practice with shooting drills.Instead, Crean watched Michigan sew up a home victory against Michigan State and Crean’s mentor, Tom Izzo. It was the Spartans’ fifth conference loss, meaning no team could now fully overtake IU and its 13-3 Big Ten mark.Crean went downstairs to find his players and shared the news, spreading smiles all around.Then they got back to work. The job is not done yet.No. 14 Ohio State comes to town today for a 9 p.m. Senior Night tipoff at Assembly Hall, looking to avenge a home loss to the Hoosiers earlier this year.“To do what they’ve done and to have a share of this title and to be able to look at an accomplishment is great, but I don’t think there are any of them — I really don’t — that are spending any time thinking about what they’ve done,” Crean said. “It’s really about what they’re doing and about to do.”A win tonight, in the final home game for the team’s three seniors, would give IU its first outright conference crown since 1993. However, four teams sit two games back at 11-5, each with a chance, slim as it may be, to tie IU atop the conference.Sophomore forward Cody Zeller is quick to point out that Ohio State numbers in that group.“They’re playing for a share of the Big Ten title as well, so it would be crazy if you didn’t think they’re going to come out and play as hard as ever,” Zeller said. “It’s going to be a tough physical game and we’ll have to come out and play well.”Coming days after a road upset to Illinois, IU’s 81-68 win in Columbus, Ohio, helped the team hold onto the No. 1 ranking despite a loss, finally relinquishing it Monday and dropping to No. 2.The win was highlighted by 20-point efforts from Zeller, junior guard Victor Oladipo and senior guard Christian Watford but only 11 points from other players.Freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell managed just a single point in that contest, guarded primarily by OSU defensive whiz Aaron Craft.However, Ferrell enter this rematch with momentum on his side — his career-high 19 points Saturday against Iowa earned him Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week honors — and an idea of what he’s getting into against Craft.“He’s pretty much just tough all-around, definitely a tough defender,” Ferrell said. “I need to pick my spots closely now, because he’s one of the best guards in the Big Ten.”Offensively, Ohio State was led, as usual, by Deshaun Thomas, who dropped 26 points on the Hoosiers. Crean noted that since then, Thomas has began posting up more, resulting in more free throws and making him an even more formidable offensive threat.“There’s really not a matchup that he seems to struggle with,” Crean said. “What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to make it harder and harder for him to catch the ball. That’s the one thing defensively that you’ve got to do.“He’s one of those people that you could put him in any gym, any arena, anywhere, and he’s probably going to make a bunch of shots.”No one needs to tell Crean or his team that a share of the conference crown, considering the depths the program was in just a few years ago, is significant from a historical perspective. He knows it, and they know it.Yet Monday afternoon, there was Zeller, almost downplaying the accomplishment, at least for now.“It’s only a share of the Big Ten championship, so we were right back to work,” Zeller said. “We want to get this win tomorrow night and get it all for ourselves.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Tuesday may be Senior Night, but an IU freshman earned an award for his recent heroics Monday morning.Freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell was named Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week, sharing the honor with Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.Ferrell also took home the honor for his play in the season’s opening week.In IU’s Saturday win against Iowa, a win that would end up clinching a share of the Big Ten regular season title, Ferrell posted a career-high 19 points. Despite 2-of-10 shooting, he also had 10 points in IU’s loss to Minnesota last Tuesday.Trevor Mbakwe, who once played for IU Coach Tom Crean and led the Golden Gophers’ upset of IU, was named conference player of the week.A five-star recruit from Park, Ferrell has started every game this season for IU, averaging 7.8 points per game and 4.4 assists this season.In other award news, junior guard Victor Oladipo and sophomore forward Cody Zeller were each named to the list of 14 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Trophy.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU scored just 26 points in Saturday evening’s first half, shooting a mere 28.6 percent.These had to be the numbers Iowa dreamed of, products of cold IU shooting that would seemingly leave the Hoosiers ripe for another Big Ten upset.Yet IU had a double-digit lead.Iowa scored all of 14 points in the first period of Saturday’s 73-60 IU win at home, the lowest output of an IU opponent all season.“For us to defend them the way we did tonight and hold them to 14 points in the first half says a lot about our defense, a lot about our resolve,” IU Coach Tom Crean said.IU’s first half defensive dominance was not predicated on a single Iowa drought, but rather a series small dry spells. Until their final two scores of the half, it took the Hawkeyes at least 2:58 after a basket to score again.As he has been numerous times this season, junior guard Victor Oladipo was a defensive catalyst for IU early, racking up three steals in the game’s first 2:40.However, fouls mounted for Oladipo nearly as quickly, and he was limited to just 22 minutes for the game. Crean said it did not keep him from having an effect on the game, though.“We didn’t win without Victor,” Crean said. “We just had to play some minutes without him ... they were trying to foul him out and he kept having to play through extended minutes on the bench ... it just so happened that had to play a different game tonight a little.”Even with four fouls, Oladipo still came through late for IU. As Iowa mounted a comeback and closed the gap to 10 points with less than three minutes left, Oladipo swiped the ball from a Hawkeye ball handler, then zipped it to junior forward Will Sheehey, who finished with a layup.Even though IU scored only 26 points in the first half, IU led in rebounds, steals and nearly every non-shooting offensive category. Shots simply did not fall.“When you’re getting those stops put together, you’re getting easier baskets and at the same time you’re cutting into the fatigue of the other team and into their confidence level,” Crean said. “Even when the shots aren’t falling, they’re still playing at a very high level.”The teams’ first contest this season, a 69-65 IU win in Iowa City, Iowa, was no barnburner either. IU kept Iowa to just 25 points in that game, but freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell said the team drew lessons from the win that helped it stymie the Iowa offense Saturday.“They definitely get the ball out and push,” Ferrell said. “We just wanted to do a better job, especially when we scored, to get back on defense, because I remember in the second half when we played at their place, they had a lot of inside looks on us, and we weren’t getting back.”Even when both offenses became more effective in the second half, IU never trailed thanks to the cushion its first half defense built.“The thing that kept us going was our defense,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “We kept getting stops on the defensive end. We struggled at times on our offense but when you’re getting stops you’re going to win.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Tom Crean is sure it exists, and after a little prodding, Derek Elston admits to it.Yes, Elston does have a Crean impression at his disposal, and no, he will not show it to the assembled journalists.Even his mother, Christina, has seen it only a few times.It is not his only one, though. Impressions in general are but one weapon in the senior forward’s arsenal to lighten the mood when the team needs him to, in good times and bad.Of the seniors to be honored Tuesday evening in Assembly Hall, Derek Elston has neither the statistics nor signature moments of Christian Watford or Jordan Hulls. He has missed more than a third of this season and plays a fraction of the other two’s minutes.The senior forward’s place on the team is found in neither numbers nor film, but rather in leading goofy chants of encouragement from the bench.And in his idiosyncratic pranks and habits, known as ‘Derekisms.’And in moments of explanation to the team’s young post players when he pulls them aside in practice and takes on the role of coach.And in the handful of minutes when he is on the floor, dashing around on defense, staying in his man’s face and grasping at scoring and rebounding opportunities when they arise.“The past couple years when parents email me and tell me I meant so much to their kids during camps and kids come up to me after games and tell me I’m their favorite player just because of the energy I bring on the court, that right there tells me I’m still doing something,” Elston said. “It’s nice to go out on the court and still score and rebound. I know lot of cases it really doesn’t come to you. To go out there and have people notice my energy — I’m still out there giving 100 percent — that means a lot to me.”***Elston was nearly as ballyhooed as anyone in his recruiting class when he arrived on campus in 2009. A 4-star recruit according to Rivals.com and the son of former NBA pro Darrell Elston, Derek was a holdover commitment from the Kelvin Sampson era.Christina remains in touch with Sampson, thankful for first extending the opportunity to her son.Crean waited several weeks to contact Elston so as to not run afoul of recruiting rules, but Christina Elston said Derek never had any thought of looking elsewhere. He remained committed to Crean, and arrived as part of a six-man class with sights set on an IU return to relevance.The first season played out much as many expected, slight improvement from IU and prominent contributions from freshmen, but with just 10 wins. IU was still down, to the amusement of its foes.“A lot of times we were saying the league just didn’t like us,” Elston said. “They liked the fact that we were down. You look at videos of the past and how everyone was making fun of us. We were the butt of every joke, and now we’re playing so well.”Elston started seven times that year, his role increasing as the season wore on. As IU Associate Head Coach Tim Buckley took Elston under his wing, Elston said he learned to ask questions he’d lacked the courage to ask early on. He started 10 games as a sophomore.“When Coach Crean would get on me about things I was doing wrong, Coach Buckley would pull me off to the side and say ‘I realize he was yelling at you, but you’ve got to realize what he was saying in those words,’” Elston said.By the end of that second season, one with 12 wins, the six-man class was down to four, and guard Maurice Creek was already mired by injury woes. Yet national prominence, be it sooner or later, remained the goal for those left. For Elston, transferring was never an option.“You need that core group of people to say ‘No matter what, we’re going through, we’re going to see it pay off,’” Elston said. “If it wasn’t going to be us, we’d see what we’d instilled in people later down that line. We knew that definitely we’re going to stay and to get this program where it needed to be.”***In his time at IU, as IU’s ranking has risen, Elston’s numbers have fallen. He is not shy about the fact, speaking quickly and candidly about it as he does about most things, still smiling.His scoring has dropped each year, from 5.8 points per game as a freshman to 1.5 this year entering Tuesday.“My freshman year, toward this part of the year, I was one of the main scorers on the team. I was in double figures almost every game,” Elston said. “Injuries have come up. Now I’m coming off the bench. It’s fun. It’s all part of it. When Coach calls my number, I expect myself to go in there, and give it my all and when I come back at the end of the bench, giving everybody a high five. I’m just doing what I need to do to help everybody out.”Just about any player would like to be out on the court as much as possible, and Elston is no exception. Christina said she is convinced that with just a little more playing time, he could really shine.But his role this season is established, and beyond his 7.2 minutes per game on the floor, Elston has made he presence felt on the bench as well. Photos of a wide-eyed Elston leading the bench in cheers have graced the internet and the pages of this newspaper.“We just bring energy. Anytime somebody makes a shot, especially a 3-pointer, we’re up there doing any kind of dance we can,” Elston said. “We feel like we’re just as much a part of it as the five guys on the floor ... When our name gets called to go in the game, we’re alert, we’re energized, we’re ready to go and that’s what Coach is asking for.”***From Jordan Hulls’ shaggy hair to Christian Watford’s long beard, each of the three seniors taking Branch McCracken Court for the final time Tuesday has a distinguishing physical attribute.Elston has his tattoos — a seemingly ever-expanding mass on his left arm, chest and back that, for better or worse, has come to be a prime signifier in his four years at IU.The cross, a tribute to his grandfather, came first.“My mom hates them,” Elston said. “She won’t ever tell you that she hates them, but she hates them. She finally bared down and said ‘OK, you can get a cross, but I realize it’s going to get bigger.’ I said it wouldn’t. Obviously, I was lying.”Christina went with him to have the work done and remembers the tattoo artist increasing the original size of the design, knowing Elston’s arms would grow with college strength training.Three angels, one each for his mother and two sisters — “the three ladies in my life,” as he calls them — were next. Despite her reluctance to any ink in the first place, Christina admits the gesture was “very sweet.”The mass on his left arm grew, adding a whimsical design with his nickname, “Diesel,” and most recently, an eye with crosses for each of his deceased grandparents, an addition that came just before this season.He tried to hide it from his mother, but that did not last.While his chest and back tattoos were inspired by his father, he keeps his right arm bare, at least for now.“My mom still has a picture of just this arm, because it doesn’t have anything on it,” Elston said. “She has it on her phone. I don’t know why. She gets a kick out of me having a normal arm, I guess.”***On Oct. 24, news broke that Elston tore his meniscus and would be out for up to eight weeks.He suffered a similar injury before his senior year of high school. This appeared to be an aggravation.An IU spokesman joked in October that it must have been from one of the team’s dance routines at Hoosier Hysteria. Elston will probably never know for sure.Whatever it was, the reality was the start of his senior year would be delayed. He would miss the non-conference season when players jostle for playing time and rotations are set. He would have to sit out the much-publicized showdown with North Carolina, his father’s alma mater.“The beginning of the season, I had done so much to get ready for the season, and not only to tear your meniscus and have to sit out six to eight weeks, but to not even know how you did it, it’s unbelievable,” Elston said. “I was so ready for the season to get going and that happened ... I’m trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel for myself. I realize I can’t get out there and do what I used to do, but I realize that somewhere on this team, they’ve needed me and I kind of pulled through.”Elston’s No. 32 jersey took the court in the season opener against Bryant even if he did not.Watford, in a show of respect to his injured teammate, approached Crean in the days before the game and requested permission to borrow the jersey for one game only.“Anytime you go into battle with somebody for so many years, you’ve been in the hole with somebody for so many years and they can’t experience the fruits of their labors, you just want to make it easier for them to deal with,” Watford said. “I can’t play for him, but I just wanted to show him some love and do that for him.”Creek, who has missed part of three seasons with leg injuries, offered further advice. Elston credits Creek with keeping his own injury in perspective.While he was out, Elston was still a regular at practice, his understanding of the game so far above what it was originally that Crean allowed him to stop practice and offer his own instruction to his teammates.Elston returned Dec. 19 against Mount St. Mary’s. He scored four points in his first six games, sitting out a road contest with Penn State after a setback.On Jan. 30, though, when IU demolished Purdue on the road, Elston scored five points, more than doubling his total thus far. He matched that total Saturday against Iowa.“After the Purdue game, he was just elated that he played well,” Christina said. “He kept saying ‘I’m back. I’m back.”***Perhaps to the chagrin of Hulls, his roommate for the past three years, Elston came about his sense of humor honestly.Christina said she would thrill her children with farfetched tales and is not surprised he has taken after her side of the family.Though Elston claims it is Zeller, others point him as the team’s leading prankster and comedian.From his many impressions to soaking a teammate’s carpet with an emptied jug of water, having Elston as a roommate means there is “never a dull moment” for Hulls.“Far too often, I’ll say to myself ‘Why am I living with this guy?’ but I need that in my life, I think,” Hulls said. “I’m not the most outgoing person, so having Derek helps me out.”Pranks aside, Hulls has seen, perhaps better than anyone, who Elston is and what he has dealt with in four seasons at IU. He has seen the coaching of freshmen big men in practice, the injuries, the return of IU to the national rankings and more than his fair share of Derekisms.“After a long day of practice or whatever it is, Derek’s always there for a laugh,” Hulls said. “But he’s also done a really good job, when he was hurt and not playing, of being vocal on the sidelines and taking a senior role and leadership role ... He can be serious and help us on the court, but off the court, he makes everybody smile, laugh, does a little bit of everything.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU scored just 26 points in Saturday evening’s first half, shooting a mere 28.6 percent.These had to be the numbers Iowa dreamed of, products of cold IU shooting that would seemingly leave the Hoosiers ripe for another Big Ten upset.Yet IU had a double-digit lead.Iowa scored all of 14 points in the first period of Saturday’s 73-60 Indiana win at home, the lowest output of an IU opponent all season.“For us to defend them the way we did tonight and hold them to 14 points in the first half says a lot about our defense, a lot about our resolve,” IU Coach Tom Crean said.IU’s first half defensive dominance was not predicated on a single Iowa drought, but rather a series small dry spells. Until their final two scores of the half, it took the Hawkeyes at least 2:58 after a basket to score again.As he has been numerous times this season, junior guard Victor Oladipo was a defensive catalyst for IU early, racking up three steals in the game’s first 2:40.However, fouls mounted for Oladipo nearly as quickly, and he was limited to just 22 minutes for the game in one of his shortest outings of the season. Crean said that that did not keep him from having an impact on the game, though.“We didn’t win without Victor,” Crean said. “We just had to play some minutes without him ... they were trying to foul him out and he kept having to play through extended minutes on the bench ... it just so happened that had to play a different game tonight a little. Once he got the fouls, maybe he couldn’t be as aggressive.”Even with four fouls, though, Oladipo still came through once again late for IU. As Iowa mounted a comeback and closed the gap to 10 points with less than three minutes, Oladipo swiped the ball from a Hawkeye ball handler, then zipped it to junior forward Will Sheehey, who finished with a layup.Crean and his players have often spoken of using defense to create offense, and that was again the case Saturday, at least to an extent.Even though IU scored only 26 points itself in the half, IU led in rebounds, steals and nearly every non-shooting offensive category. Shots simply did not fall.“When you’re creating turnovers, when you’re getting defensive rebounds, when you’re getting those stops put together, you’re getting easier baskets and at the same time you’re cutting into the fatigue of the other team and into their confidence level,” Crean said. “We’ve been there. That’s why I love the maturity of this group right now. Even when the shots aren’t falling, they’re still playing at a very high level.”The teams’ first contest this season, a 69-65 IU win in Iowa City, was no barnburner either. IU kept Iowa to just 25 points in that game, but freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell said the team drew lessons from the win that helped it stymie the Iowa offense Saturday.“We didn’t let the lack of offense affect what we needed to do defensively. They were talking through that.”“They definitely get the ball out and push,” Ferrell said. “We just wanted to do a better job, especially when we scored, to get back on defense because I remember in the second half when we played at their place, they had a lot of inside looks on us and we weren’t getting back.”Even when both offenses became more effective in the second half, IU never trailed thanks to the cushion its first half defense built, something sophomore forward Cody Zeller said the team was aware of.“The thing that kept us going was our defense,” Zeller said. “We kept getting stops on the defensive end. We struggled at times on our offense but when you’re getting stops you’re going to win."
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>It is never quite the same batch of questions that erupts on the blogosphere after an IU loss this season.Often physicality is questioned. Sometimes ball movement is too. Turnovers, cold shooting and defensive lapses have all taken shares of blame. One question is near-constant, though.What next?IU has not dropped consecutive games yet this season, bouncing back from each loss with a win. After falling 77-73 to Minnesota Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, IU looks to repeat the feat against Iowa, a team the Hoosiers narrowly defeated 69-65 on New Year’s Eve to open the Big Ten season.“Our players are resilient,” IU Assistant Coach Kenny Johnson said in December following IU’s loss to Butler. “I think when they walked in the door, even last spring, they signed up for a marathon, not a sprint. We are continuing on with the same process to make sure we maximize each individual day. That is our goal.”Aside from successfully following up each loss with a win thus far this season, the similarities seemingly end there.One victory was a blowout of outmatched Mount St. Mary’s. Another a low-scoring dogfight against Northwestern. And finally a signature win on the road against a Top 10 Ohio State squad.To the extent there has been a common thread in the three wins, it has been sophomore forward Cody Zeller. He has either led or been second on the team in scoring in all three games, averaging 20.3 points.His rebounding totals in such games also eclipse his normal numbers, with 9 rebounds per contest in bounce-back games, including 13 against the Wildcats.However, Zeller was noticeably outmaneuvered by Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe on Tuesday, scoring just nine points and allowing the bruising Golden Gopher forward to nab 12 rebounds.Zeller similarly struggled on the glass in IU’s first loss of the season against Butler, when the Bulldogs’ own seven-footer, Andrew Smith, won the clear majority of confrontations on the glass against the more highly touted Hoosier.The rebounding issues extended to the team as a whole, and coaches responded by making rebounding a particular focus in the following practices.“The strength of the players in the program is that desire to compete, so the rebounding drills fall along in that same line, where we go after it,” Johnson said. “We notice some technique things that we were trying to improve and will continue to try to improve until we get to the standard that we are looking for.”Even after winning the rebounding battle in the team’s loss to Illinois—albeit by a narrow 30-26 margin — IU Coach Tom Crean again instituted extra physical practices in addition to team meetings meant to re-focus the team.“It’s not about bouncing back — it’s about making sure that you’re getting better,” Crean said a day before his team responded with an 81-68 win against Ohio State. “If you spend a lot of time bouncing back and worrying about your mentality, then all of a sudden that cuts into your preparation. That cuts into what you need to do to win the game.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Despite the best efforts of IU’s guards, a dominant performance by Minnesota post players cost IU Tuesday in Minneapolis as the Golden Gophers downed the No. 1 Hoosiers 77-73.“We knew we were walking in here to face a desperate team and they played like a desperate team,” Indiana Associate Head Coach Steve McClain said.Mbakwe, a burly sixth-year forward who begin his career at Marquette in IU Coach Tom Crean’s final season there, scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting to lead his team as he abused sophomore forward Cody Zeller all evening.“That’s a grown man that’s one of the best rebounders in this country,” Crean said. “He was the toughest guy on the floor tonight.”The slender Zeller, IU leading scorer entering the game managed just nine points as he was effectively neutralized by Mbakwe and Minnesota reserve center Elliot Eliason.Zeller did post seven rebounds on the night to lead IU, but the Hoosiers were utterly outmanned on the glass all evening, losing the rebound battle 44-30. Entering Tuesday the two squads led the conference in rebounding margin.With 23 offensive boards, the Gophers were able to overcome poor shooting for much of the evening simply by the volume of shots they took. They finished with 21 second-chance points to just eight for IU after rebounding 53.5 percent of their missed shots.Mbawke established himself early and often, scoring Minnesota’s first six points by muscling through for a pair of post plays and hitting an uncharacteristic 15-foot jump shot.“We’re very fortunate to get the win,” Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith said. “Trevor Mbakwe set the tone early on.”His efforts extended to defense on a block from behind Zeller on an early layup.Just as one of the biggest Gophers helped Minnesota early, though, one of the smallest Hoosiers helped Indiana roar back.Senior guard Jordan Hulls launched a bevy of long jumpers to fuel an IU run as he scored 14 in the first half. His best scoring effort in the Big Ten season came in the teams’ meeting in Assembly Hall, when he had 19 points.Trailing 16-10 less than seven minutes in, IU unleashed a 13-2 run and never trailed the rest of the half. However, persistent misses by Zeller and freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell prevented IU from boosting the lead beyond 34-30 at the break.Mbakwe started the second half in similar strong fashion to the first. He scored two quick buckets to tie the game, then tricked Zeller into a travel with nimble footwork on defense.Hulls, on the other hand, did not match his first half, missing a pair of jumpers.Ferrell found his shot after an 0-for-5 first half. With a contested layup against several much larger Gophers, then a deep 3-point jumper, Ferrell helped IU once again take a two possession lead.Once again, it would not last. The teams traded shots for several minutes before Eliason scored seven straight to tie it up.Even in the back-and-forth of the game’s first 30 minutes, several notable names remained unusually quiet. Zeller remained out of sync all evening, while Andre Hollins, the hero of Minnesota’s near-comeback in Assembly Hall with 25 points, missed shot after shot early before finishing with 16 points.Hollins missed his first six 3-point point attempts Tuesday, but when he finally connected well into the second half, the conversion gave Minnesota its first lead of the period.Zeller responded with a breakaway layup and an and-one conversion to give IU the edge by a single point, 59-58 with 4:39 remaining. It would be the Hoosiers’ last lead of the night.Minnesota reeled off a 12-4 run to take a seven-point lead. Senior forward Christian Watford prolonged the agony, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to twice cut the deficit to four points.With less than a half minute remaining, IU looked to have one last chance as junior guard Victor Oladipo had an open look at a 3-pointer from the left corner that would cut the Gopher lead to three. However, Rodney Williams, launching himself from the paint, cleanly blocked the shot and preserved Minnesota’s two-possession lead.Hulls, IU’s leading scorer with 17 points, would hit a deep 3-pointer himself. By that point, though, it was too late. Free throws sealed the upset for Minnesota.“It means a whole lot,” Williams said. “Any time you get the No. 1 team in your house, you want to play your best and get the W.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>IU was thoroughly outmanned on the boards all evening as the Hoosiers fell to Minnesota 77-73 Tuesday evening in Minneapolis.Trevor Mbawke, Minnesota's burly sixth-year forward who once played for IU Coach Tom Crean at Marquette, staked the Golden Gophers to an early lead, primarily by outmuscling Hoosiers in the post.He also tacked on an uncharacteristic early 15-foot jump shot in the opening 8-2 Minnesota salvo.His efforts extended to defense, a block from behind denying sophomore forward Cody Zeller an early layup.Mbakwe got the best of Zeller on the glass as well. In a battle of the Big Ten's top two rebounding squads, Minnesota entered the half with a 20-16 edge, Mbakwe leading the team in its customary strong offensive rebounding. Minnesota has nine rebounds on the offensive boards.Just as one of the biggest Gophers helped Minnesota early, though, one of the smallest Hoosiers helped Indiana roar back.Senior Hulls launched a bevy of long jumpers, most from 3-point range, to fuel an IU run as he scored a team-leading 14 in the first half. His best scoring effort in the Big Ten season came in the teams' meeting in Assembly Hall, when he had 19 points.After trailing 16-10 less than seven minutes in, IU broke off a 13-2 run and never trailed after that point in the half.IU did not ride the run to a commanding halftime lead as it did in Assembly Hall, though. Minnesota tied the game at 27 with 7:03 left in the period and the game slowed from that point on.Free throws helped IU build its narrow 34-30 lead as the game slowed heading into the break.Mbakwe started the second half in similar strong fashion to the first. He scored two quick buckets to tie the game, then tricked Zeller into a travel with nimble footwork on defense.Hulls, on the other hand, did not match his quick start, missing a pair of jumpers. Luckily for IU, Hull's back court partner, freshman guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, found his shot after an 0-for-5 first half.With a contested layup against several much larger Gophers, then a deep 3-point jumper, Ferrell helped IU once again take a two possession lead.And, once again, it would not last. The teams traded shots for several minutes before Minnesota backup big man Elliot Eliason scored seven straight to tie it up.Even in the back-and-forth of the game's first 30 minutes, several notable names remained unusually quiet. Zeller remained out of synch all evening, while Andre Hollins, the hero of Minnesota's near-comeback in Assembly Hall with 25 points, missed shot after shot.Hollins missed his first six 3-point point attempts Tuesday, but when he finally connected well into the second half, the conversion gave Minnesota its first lead of the half.Zeller responded with a breakaway layup and an and-one conversion to give IU the edge by a single point.It would be the Hoosiers' last of the night.Minnesota reeled off a 12-4 run, with several Gophers contributing buckets, to take a seven point lead. Senior forward Christian Watford prolonged the agony, knocking down a pair of trailing 3-pointers to twice cut the deficit to four point.With less than a half minute remaining, IU looked to have one last chance as junior guard Victor Oladipo had an open look at a 3-pointer from the left corner that would cut the Gopher lead to three. However, Rodney Williams, launching himself from the pant, cleanly blocked the shot and preserved the two-possession lead.Hulls would hit a long shot himself, but by that point it was too late, and free throws salted away the upset for Minnesota.