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Struggles, achievement for Russell Byrd

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For more on Indiana, Purdue and Big Ten athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio

Torn ACL ends Jones' IU career

Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 6:24 am

INDIANAPOLIS -- Russell Byrd might someday be the great college shooter Michigan State coach Tom Izzo envisions.

For now , the former Blackhawk Christian standout, who missed all of last season with injuries, remains a work in progress.

Byrd scored a career-high eight points in the Spartans' 92-75 Big Ten tourney victory over Iowa on Friday. He was 2-for-5 from the field in 10 off-the-bench minutes. He came into the tournament with 33 total points in 22 games.

Byrd did air ball a three-point attempt that generated an animated discussion with Izzo.

“Let me give you the PG version of what I said -- ‘What the hell are you doing out there?'” Izzo said.

“When a great shooter shoots an air ball, it means it's a bad shot. He rushed it.”

Byrd redshirted last season after a series of injuries. He's slowly regaining his shooting touch, Izzo said.

“Russell is like a kid learning to walk again. It's been a year and a half and we've all been waiting for him to come back. Unfortunately it isn't going to happen this year like we'd hoped, but he is getting better.

“If he sets his feet, then someday he's going to be great. I'm hoping in the (former Ohio State standout) Jon Diebler mode. But Russ's mind is going a thousand RPMs, and his body is going about 10. The coordination isn't there yet. When he's set, he nails it. When he rushes it, I mean, you never see a great shooter take two-foot air balls, missed by two feet.

“That's what I told him. I said, ‘Hey, it's your fault. You rushed it. You're not there yet. Frustrating for you, but that's the way it is.'”

Abell in; Jones out

Indiana freshman guard Remy Abell filled in for injured senior Verdell Jones Friday. He totaled five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

“I'm trying to come in and do what I can do,” he said. “Be aggressive on the offensive and defensive ends. Do what I can do to help the team. Everybody has a role and I'm trying to do mine.”

Jones' role is to help his teammates in other ways besides playing. He tore his right ACL during Thursday's win over Penn State. His 1,347 career points rank 23rd in IU history. He averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists for his career.

Jones averaged a career-low 7.5 points this season, but that was because of the addition of freshman forward Cody Zeller and the improvement in other Hoosiers. He thrived in leadership and was the player who assisted Christian Watford's game-winning three-point shot over No. 1 Kentucky.

“This is heartbreaking news,” coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “His contribution to our program over the course of his career, and especially this season, is immeasurable. He was playing his best basketball and really had embraced his role on this team as a player and as a leader. We are proud of the career he has had at Indiana University and he, as much as anyone, deserved the opportunity to enjoy everything we have worked so hard for and are experiencing as a team. We appreciate all the prayers that have been said on his behalf.”

NCAA preparation

IU's 79-71 loss to Wisconsin on Friday, forward Will Sheehey said, can't distract from NCAA tourney preparation.

“We've got to learn from this, but also put it behind us,” he said. “We can't dwell on the loss. We've got another game coming on.”

For the first time in four years, Selection Sunday is something the Hoosiers can look forward to instead of dread.

“It's something that we've been planning on ever since the season started,” Sheehey said. “Hopefully that will be a starting point.”

Sheehey appeared to tweak his left ankle in the first half against Wisconsin. He spent the first couple of minutes of the second half riding a stationary bike just off the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court before returning to action. He finished with six points and two rebounds in 31 minutes. He was icing it after the game.

Crean said it was “hard to tell” what Sheehey's status will be.

Izzo, Painter address Weber firing

Bruce Weber was fired as Illinois coach on Friday, less than 24 hours after the Illini lost in the Big Ten tourney first round to Iowa. They finished 17-15.

Izzo addressed the firing.

“I'm sick about it,” he said. “I have three problems. Bruce is a friend of mine. He's done it the right way. He doesn't cheat. He man's up to his responsibilities. I've recruited against him and lost, and recruited against him and won. It hasn't changed things.

“I think the way it was handled was ridiculous. I feel worse for Bruce because we lost a good soldier. We lost a good coach. My wife and I shed a tear this morning over it, and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession.”

Purdue coach Matt Painter, who played for and coached under Weber, said Weber will bounce back.

“It's hard for me. He's a great coach and a better person. It's Illinois' loss.

“You know he's going to bounce back and get a good opportunity. There's no doubt about that. It's hard because if it wasn't for him and if it wasn't for (former Purdue coach) Gene Keady, I wouldn't be here. I've learned a lot about life and how to treat people from Coach Weber. You're not going to find a better guy.”