Indiana’s sophomore forward remains locked in action-speaks-louder-than words mode. He says one sentence when three are preferable.
So now that the Hoosiers (11-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten) have shown they can once again play defense well enough to beat a Big Ten team, that they have at least a little momentum entering Tuesday’s game at Maryland (14-2, 2-1), which will be their first true road contest of the season, Anunoby is asked about the defense.
Specifically, what did IU do to contain Illinois, especially in the first half of Saturday’s victory, when the game was basically won thanks to a 15-0 start?
“It was talking more,” Anunoby said. “We were more directed and playing hard.”
A few minutes later, Anunoby gets a turnover question. The Hoosiers were better in limiting them. They had just four in the first half, and 12 for the game, compared to 22 assists. That was huge for a team that is last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Anunoby had no turnovers in 31 minutes along with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Was that the result, he was asked, of an emphasis on making the simple play?
“Yeah, we never want (turnovers).”
But was it more of an emphasis?
“Yeah, but it’s always an emphasis.”
So there you go.
Coach Tom Crean also was asked about the defense, and, as you would expect, had more to say.
“We were aggressive defensively,” he said. “We were connected.”
During IU’s three-game losing streak that generated so much angst in Hoosier Nation, it had failed to defend the perimeter, or much of anything.
That all changed against Illinois.
At least in the first half.
The Illini (11-5, 1-2) shot just 29.2 percent in the opening 20 minutes. They took just six three-pointers thanks to the Hoosiers’ in-your-face defense that allowed few perimeter openings.
“In this game we had really good (defensive) movement,” Crean said. “We had good energy. Our deflections were up. We had 38 in each of the last two games. (Against Illinois), we had 37 at halftime.
“And we were able to score on the turnovers. The charges were big. That is certainly something we have to start doing a better job of.
“I thought they were really good.”
They will have to be against a Maryland team coming off a win at Michigan.
The Terrapins are led by guard Melo Trimble, who averages 17.5 points and 3.4 rebounds. Three other players average in double figures – forward Justin Jackson (10.8), guard Anthony Cowan (10.4) and Michael Cekovsky (10.0)
IU did give up 51 second-half points to Illinois, something that can’t be repeated at Maryland. The Hoosiers will face a true hostile environment for the first time. They did play – and lose – at Fort Wayne, but that was in front of a big Hoosier crowd.
The key, guard James Blackmon said, is mindset.
“Guys were engaged and helping each other out. That’s something we have to maintain.”