Indiana looks to bounce back against Mount Saint Mary’s

Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Hoosiers tangle with Mount Saint Mary's at 7 p.m. Wednesday night. - Andy Lyons

After first loss, Hoosiers return to court Wednesday night

Oh, poor Mount Saint Mary's.

If there was anyone more bummed than Hoosier Nation about Indiana's loss to Butler, it was Mount Saint Mary's. As if coming in to Assembly Hall wasn't going to be tough enough for the undermanned Mountaineers, now they get to face an angry No. 6 Indiana team, one that's probably coming off a couple not-so-merry practices.

Contrary to popular belief, the season did not end at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. It continues after the Butler loss, and it resumes with Wednesday night's game against Mount St. Mary's, which takes place at 7 p.m. and will be shown on the Big Ten Network.

Mount Saint Mary's is guided by first-year skipper Jaimon Christian, who is somewhat familiar with Indiana after spending last season as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth. Christian, a former Mountaineers' player, has the program sitting at 4-4.

The Mountaineers have struggled to put the ball in the hoop in the early going, scoring just 61.3 points per game thus far, which ranks 292nd in the nation. To hang with the high-scoring Hoosiers, who lead the country at 88.8 points per game, Mount Saint Mary's is going to need some combination of supernatural forces and a roster addition in the name of LeBron James.

Mount Saint Mary's has played two top-tier teams, suffering lopsided losses to both Georgetown (72-50) and Pittsburgh (80-48).

Rashad Whack, Julian Norfleet and Sam Prescott lead the Mountaineers offensively, accounting for 55 percent of the team's shot attempts. Whack averages 11.5 points and 2.6 steals while Norfleet (10.5) and Prescott (10.3) hover around 10 points per game. No other Mountaineer averages over 6.2 points.

After watching his team get its clock cleaned on the glass by Butler, Indiana coach Tom Crean vowed to put a major emphasis on rebounding in the practices leading up to the game.

"I'm excited," Crean said in his postgame comments, "about the rebounding drills we are going to do even though I'm not sure there are many people who are going to share my excitement about that, because right now that's an area that we really need to prove ourselves."

Rebounding had been one of Indiana's strengths coming in to the Butler game, as the Hoosiers had won the rebounding battle in each of their first nine games. But no one had challenged the Hoosiers from a physicality standpoint the way the Bulldogs did, and Butler's ability drop in second-chance points was a major factor in the outcome of Saturday's thriller.

Indiana -- which pulls down 42.6 boards per game (16th in the nation) -- gets to showcase its renewed focus on the glass by facing a sacrificial lamb in the form of Mount Saint Mary's, who is 347th in the country with just 24.3 rebounds per game.

Now that some time has passed since a walk-on took down Goliath with a game-winning floater, Indiana fans should come to grips with a couple things:

  • Butler is good
  • Indiana had its worst shooting game of the season
  • Hulls, Watford, Zeller, Abell and Ferrell had off-nights
  • Still, the Hoosiers only lost by two points -- in overtime!
  • Crean is a really good coach
  • In the long run, the game will do wonders for Indiana

I firmly believe that the Butler loss is going to be a great teaching tool for Crean and Co. the rest of the way. The game highlighted some areas where the Hoosiers can improve -- namely shot selection and rebounding -- and it didn't come at the expense of a Big Ten defeat.

The loss overshadowed a great all-around performance from Victor Oladipo, who, through 10 games, has been Indiana's best and most consistent player.

Oladipo's entire arsenal was on display Saturday. From his in-your-face, relentless defense on Rotnei Clarke to his next-level athleticism on drives to the bucket, Oladipo did it all. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with four assists, four steals, three rebounds and two blocks. His only blemish was a season-high six turnovers.

If you have the game DVR'd, go back and check the clip of Oladipo heading back to the locker room after the game. The guy looks absolutely gassed. He played 42 minutes and gave 100 percent effort for all 42. You can't ask for anything else.

The 18-point game marks Oladipo's eighth straight contest with at least 12 points, and he is shooting a Big Ten-best 65.8 percent from the floor -- a dramatic improvement from last year's clip of 47.1. Defensively, he's pilfering 2.7 steals per night while consistently locking on to the other team's primary perimeter weapon.

Chad Ford, ESPN's Senior NBA Writer, released his latest Mock Draft over the weekend, and he vaulted Oladipo, a junior, in to the end of the first round. Here's what Ford had to say about him:

"A number of scouts have walked away with another name highlighted on their iPads when visiting Indiana: Victor Oladipo. Last season, he was considered a high-energy athlete with no real offensive game. This season, with an improved jumper and even better defensive numbers, some scouts believe they've found the next Tony Allen [Memphis Grizzles defensive stalwart].

"Oladipo's energy is infectious, and he can lock down just about everyone, from point guards to power forwards. And on offense, he shows an above-average ability to finish around the rim. Plus, even his 3-point shot is starting to fall a little bit. No one is calling Oladipo a lottery pick right now, but it's looking more and more likely that he will hear his name called somewhere in the first round in June."

That's not great news for Indiana fans, since Oladipo may bolt town after this year if he's a first-round lock, but you can't help but feel good for him. Oladipo has made big leaps each offseason and, by all accounts, he did that by living in the gym and working his tail off.

As well as Oladipo performed against Butler, the rest of the squad laid an egg.

Cody Zeller's final line looks decent -- 18 points and five rebounds -- but anyone who watched the game knows better.

Zeller only hit four field goals and was mostly a non-factor until late. Andrew Smith got the better of him for most of the game, and even when Smith (and Erik Fromm and Roosevelt Jones) had fouled out, Zeller didn't take over the game inside. On a night when Indiana needed a big presence on the boards, five rebounds in 37 minutes isn't enough from Zeller -- especially when miniature point guard Yogi Ferrell snagged eight boards.

Ferrell hit a late game-tying 3-pointer, but he had six turnovers and consistently took deep jumpers with plenty of time on the shot clock. Christian Waford was 1 for 5 with three rebounds. Remy Abell (1 for 6) and Jordan Hulls (4 for 11) had their first bad shooting games of the year. Hulls was 0 for 2 from beyond the arc after hitting at least two 3-pointers in every game this season. Will Sheehey was 4 for 8 for 13 points.

Hanner Mosquera-Perea made his season debut and scored two points in three minutes of action. Jeremy Hollowell played three minutes and went scoreless as Crean tightened up his rotation in a close contest.

Derek Elston (knee) dressed for the first time this season but was just a spectator. It's too bad becaust Indiana could've used Elston's toughness on the glass. Crean said Tuesday, according to IUHoosiers.com, that Elston is nearing a return to the court.

"He's close," Crean said. "He warmed-up the other day (against Butler), and he warmed up hard. I knew we weren't going to be really able to play him, but it was really good to have him be out there for that. He practiced a little bit today. He's very limited as to his practice time. The projection when it all started was going to be somewhere around Christmas time, meaning the 28th or the 31st. There is a possibility that he could play this week. I wouldn't call it a probability yet."

Following Wednesday's game against the Mountaineers, Indiana has a quick turnaround for a Friday night game versus Florida Atlantic. The short layoff should help prepare the Hoosiers for the nine games this year where they have just a two-day break between contests, including a brutal stretch of five games -- at Illinois, at Ohio State, vs. Nebraska, vs. Purdue and at Michigan State -- in 13 days.

After Friday's game against Florida Atlantic, Indiana wraps up non-conference play with a Dec. 28 matchup with Jacksonville. And then it's Big Ten time, baby!

Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers

  • Record: 4-4
  • RPI: 88 (IU is No. 11)
  • Sagarin: 199 (IU is No. 6)
  • Pomeroy: 247 (IU is No. 2)
  • 2011-12 record: 8-21 (6-12 Northeast Conference)
  • Head Coach: Jamion Christian (First season)
  • Series: First Meeting
  • TV: 7 p.m. Wednesday, BTN
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