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For Indiana basketball, it’s simple – get tough, be mature

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, February 13, 2017 05:51 pm
BLOOMINGTON — IU coach Tom Crean pushed maturity and toughness themes on his weekly radio show Monday night. Of course, when you’ve lot six of seven games, as the Hoosiers (15-11) have to basically ruin any hope of making the NCAA tourney barring a Big Ten tourney title, you push any available button.

“It’s important that we continue to improve,” he told announcer Don Fischer during his show.

Take, for instance, IU’s recent poor outside shooting. It was 8-for-25 against Purdue from three-point range, and 4-for-19 against Michigan.

That’s a jolt to a program that ranks among the nation’s best long-range shooting teams for more than half a decade.

“We’re not making open shots,” Crean said. “We’re getting open shots. Now, we’ve taken a few challenged ones….”

Missing shots happens to everyone. But following that with defensive breakdowns is the fastest way to get into a coach’s doghouse.

“It’s a maturity issue for us,” Crean said. “We’ve fought it all year. When you’re not making shots, you’ve got to have the mental toughness to make multiple stops.

“You can’t let not making shots confound you. It’s nothing that a few good runs offensively would have helped, but we have to figure out a way to win anyway.”

The Hoosiers continue to make turnovers at an alarming rate, with no end in sight.

“It’s mental toughness,” Crean said. “It’s mental toughness in reading the situation. We’re trying to make things happen that aren’t there.”

Crean singled out center Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson regarding the turnover problem. They each had three against Michigan, although they weren’t the biggest transgressor. Josh Newkirk had four.

“Thomas and Rob are committing too many turnovers. They both bring a lot of value, so we have to have them on the court, but they commit too many turnovers that lead to baskets.”

Injuries continue to affect Hoosier development. Beyond Collin Hartman and OG Anunoby, who are out for the season, guard James Blackmon and forward Juwan Morgan remain less than fully healthy. Blackmon is dealing with an apparent knee issue. Morgan has a foot problem.

Crean said neither is “close” to being at full strength, but they are working through it.

Blackmon was injured at Michigan a couple of weeks ago and missed three games. He’s in his second game back, but his shooting accuracy is not the same. He is 5-for-21 from the field in those two games, 3-for-12 from three-point range.

He had scored 33 points against Michigan State before his injury.

“Against Michigan State he was separating from the defense the best he ever had at any point in time,” Crean said. “Then it was back to Square One.

“It’s hard for him right now to get that separation. He has to overcome that by running his man into the screen or setting up the screen. He has to defend and block out out at a better rate.

“We’re not close to healthy as need to be,” Crean said, “but need to figure out ways to get around it.”


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