Tipoff: Indiana vs. Syracuse, Big Ten-ACC Challenge, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 3
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BLOOMINGTON – Tom Crean looked into Indiana's basketball mirror and saw –
A rush to greatness?
Perhaps all of the above.
The Hoosiers (6-1) have impressive talent that, with enough seasoning, could add to the program's championship tradition. Crean sees that and wonders, why not now? This is the era when youth isn't wasted on the young, when talent trumps experience and good things often happen to those who refuse to wait.
Push hard enough and maybe youth can morph into veterans the way coal is pressured into diamonds.
It worked for Kentucky. Well, it worked once, during its 2012 freshman-rule national title season.
Could it work for Indiana? Could you take six freshman and one fifth-year senior transfer, sprinkle with a couple of savvy veterans and reload instead of rebuild?
“We are pushing them to reach a level,” Crean said, “and we have to keep understanding daily what that level can be.”
IU hit the defensive mother lode Tuesday night in throttling previously unbeaten Evansville 77-46. That followed by four days a what-might-have-been 59-58 loss to Connecticut. While Crean appreciated the defensive attention to detail -- the 60 deflections reflected the awareness and hustle --he recognized that, perhaps, he had reached too far in his enthusiasm over what can be.
“I get too far ahead,” he said. “I'm pushing the big picture too much. We have to make sure we're maxing out every day.
“One of the things that helps people grow here is that it is demanding. I see how good they can be. I want greatness for them, but I have to make sure I don't get ahead of myself. Take each day for what it is. Emphasize what needs to be emphasized. Make sure that every day they walk out of here, they got better fundamentally.
“We've got a lot of talent. We have a lot of willing guys. We have a lot of things to learn.”
Such as what?
“I see how good they can be. I saw it Friday night (against Connecticut). It's like, we're not spending enough time on our fast break because we're spending so much time on other things.
“We've got limited time, so you don't want to wear them down. We're asking them to learn a lot. We have to make sure we stay true to the fundamentals.”
For much of Tuesday night, the Hoosiers did.
Evansville had spent its first five games proving it was as good a shooting team as there was in America, but then, it hadn't faced any team with Indiana's length and athleticism.
Throw in the Assembly Hall edge and you get a deer-in-the-headlights performance, although coach Marty Simmons insisted there was no intimidation. The Aces shot 29.1 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from beyond the arc, way below their season averages of 56.6 percent overall land 52.7 percent beyond the arc. Even their free throw shooting was miserable -- 50 percent.
To add to the misery, UE got out-rebounded 58-30, although that's not surprising given the fact IU is third nationally in rebounding.
The result – the Aces scored just 46 points, basically half their average.
“Indiana is good,” Simmons said. “They're as athletic as any team I've ever seen play here. They get up and down the floor extremely easily. They (attack) the offensive glass very well. They have a lot of weapons.”
Weapons such as Jeremy Hollowell (a career-high 18 points, all off the bench), Noah Vonleh (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Yogi Ferrell (10 points) were far too much for Evansville.
“Yogi did a great job with his penetration,” Simmons said. “Hollowell is a dynamic player. He can play multiple positions, but they're all like that.”
The Hoosiers have a week before heading to No. 8 Syracuse (5-0) as part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. They have a week to maximize each day and avoid rushing for excellence before its time.
If they do that, Crean said, “the future takes care of itself.”