Indiana coach Tom Crean said he isn’t big on playing the revenge card. Especially with a team this talented, Crean said, the Hoosiers’ focus should always be making the most of the game at hand and making improvements where they need to every game. It makes little sense to talk much about games that happened a year ago between two teams that are significantly different than they are now.
But sometimes, there’s some value in it, and this is one of those occasions. Crean said he hasn’t necessarily focused discussion on the fact that the Hoosiers suffered a stunning upset at Nebraska, but said he knows his players will remember it when they play the Cornhuskers today at Assembly Hall at 7 p.m.
“There’s no doubt that we’ll go back and look at part of that film,” Crean said. “We didn’t finish the job there. That definitely plays into it, but there’s a fine line between their memory and their future and the future right now has got to be ‘OK, are we going to be better today? Are we going to be better tomorrow? Are we going to be absolutely locked in to what makes us better?”
Crean wants them to stay locked in regardless of the opponent, but the memory of last seasons’ 70-69 loss should help them do that. The Hoosiers led that game by as many as 13 points in the second half and out-shot Nebraska 51.0 percent to 37.7 percent, but the Cornhuskers’ Bo Spencer scored 23 points, the Huskers hit 10 3-pointers and got 10 second-chance points to Indiana’s two to come back and win.
“The result is that we didn’t take care of business there,” Crean said. “We didn’t finish it off. We allowed them to get momentum back. We allowed them to get their crowd in it. … That loss was very, very disappointing to them. That was a very tough locker room, very tough trip home and next day. I think you remember those things. I don’t think it has a lot to do with tomorrow night, obviously, but I think you do remember those things.”
Said IU point guard Jordan Hulls: “The guys who were here and got to experience that loss, it definitely left a bad taste in our mouth. But it’s a new year, new team and everything, but you definitely don’t want to repeat that.”
To avoid such a repeat, Crean is making it as clear as he can to the Hoosiers that the Cornhuskers are dangerous despite their 12-12 record and 3-8 mark in the Big Ten. Their only conference victories are two wins over Penn State and one over Northwestern, but they’ve given scares to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State and their ability to slow games down and limit possessions concerns Indiana. The Cornhuskers play at the third slowest pace in the Big Ten and the No. 293 pace in Division I at 63.3 possessions per game.
When they can play slow and play games in the 40s and 50s, which they’ve done, they’re dangerous.
“People don’t get up in to them,” Crean said. “They get to play their pace. They get to dictate. They get to walk it up. They get to run their half court offense. They can shoot quick if they want to, but they can also take it down 25-30 seconds. That’s not how we need to play. We want to come in here and get after it. … If you look at their scores, they hit a lot of open jump shots in these games. They’ve got some excellent shooters, and then they cause some issues in the post if you get caught behind or you get caught in a one-on-one back there, now all of the sudden, you’ve gotta bring the help, then all of the sudden, they’ve got to kick the ball out.”
The Cornhuskers don’t have a lot of high-profile scorers, but they rely heavily on the players who can make shots. Junior guard Ray Gallegos, who redshirted last season, is leading the team with 13.3 points per game. He’s only shooting 39.3 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from beyond the arc, but he’s going for volume. He leads the Big Ten in made 3-pointers with 61.
Guard Dylan Talley is also making just 35.0 percent of his shots and 31.8 percent of his 3′s, but he’s averaging 13.1 points per game. Center Brandon Udel provides the group with a post presence, averaging 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds.
“They shoot pretty well from the 3-point line,” Hulls said. “They just like to move the ball around, get it inside, and just create havoc. They’re gonna play hard and tough.”
Said Crean: “They believe they’re tough. And I haven’t seen anything on film to make me believe that they’re not.”
Crean unspecific on Jurkin injury
On his radio show Monday night, Crean said that freshman center Peter Jurkin’s lack of playing time is due in large part to health and injury concerns. Jurkin has played just seven minutes in his freshman season and hasn’t seen the floor since Jan. 7. He has been wearing a brace on his left ankle area, but Crean wouldn’t say Tuesday specifically what his injury is.
“I’m not gonna be definitive on the injury other than it’s really held him back,” Crean said. “There’s no question about that. It’s just one of those things, we’d like to bring it to fruition soon, but I’m not sure we can do that just yet. We’d like to continue to see if he’s gonna heal to where it could help, but it’s getting late, obviously. It’s real late if you don’t count the nine games that he missed. Then it’s a little different in that sense, but we’re just trying to get him where he’s healthy enough, but that’s been a hard deal. He’s got a great attitude. He’s getting better, but it’s been hard for him to sustain anything with recovering from some injury.
Hulls finally cuts the hair
Hulls came to post-practice availability with his mop-top trimmed and was asked about it immediately.
“Unfortunately,” he said. “I broke down. … It was kind of hitting my eyes a little bit. I just needed to cut it a little bit. It will grow back fast, though, so I’m not worried about it.”
Hulls is also hoping his 3-point percentages grows back again. Teammate Christian Watford has a nine-point lead on him for the Big Ten title in that category now, shooting .488 to Hulls’ .479.
“He’s not better than me,” Hulls dead-panned, with Watford sitting beside him. “I’m not worried about that.”