BLOOMINGTON – Forget the holiday spirit. The Indiana Hoosiers had things to fix, resolve to harden, techniques to fine-tune.
There were no breaks for group hugs; no time for talk of love and peace and goodwill toward men. This was, to borrow an expression, big-boy practice, and if the physical nature never reached the football pads and helmet stage, well, that doesn't mean the last few days have been soft.
“It's been intense on both ends of the floor,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “It's that way from the coaches' standpoint and the players' standpoint.
“We've been holding each other accountable. We had been before, but now it's everything. Every little thing. Every nook and corner.
“We've done a great job these past couple of days. We can't wait to play. We're looking to bounce back at a high level.”
Welcome to the aftermath of first defeat. The Hoosiers (9-1) had been the nation's No. 1 team, in spirit if not in fact, since last spring. Last Saturday's Butler defeat took that from them.
The latest polls put them at No. 6, behind No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan and more.
Now, after three days of rugged practice, IU is back in the business of playing a game. Tonight it's Mount St. Mary's, a 4-4 squad and huge underdog.
“It's bad that we lost,” Oladipo said, “but it's good we get to bounce back and play right away. So we can go out and show that we can bounce back from a loss.”
Assistant coach Kenny Johnson knows the cliché about learning more from defeat, but he's just as soon shove that in the trash bin.
“I'd rather learn from winning,” he said.
Some experts had projected IU wouldn't lose until an early February game at Ohio State, but that wasn't a team goal.
“Our players are resilient,” Johnson said. “When they walked in the door, they signed up for a marathon and not a sprint. We're continuing on with the same process that we try to maximize each individual day.
“That's our goal. It's never been about trying to have perfection in December. It's about making sure that we maximize ourselves as a team every day.
“The guys are obviously very disappointed. We were never satisfied with what we were doing. There's a lot more to be accomplished. You get back at it, get focused, starting attacking the things that need attacked. That's what they've been showing the last few days.”
Attacking included rigorous rebounding drills that everybody embraced.
“That's this team, the competitive nature they possess,” Johnson said. “Coach (Tom Crean) does a tremendous job. Everything we do has a purpose. Everything we do has a competition to it.
“The players have that desire to compete. The rebound drills are in that same mold. They really go after it. We've got some technique things we're trying to improve until we got to a standard we're looking for.
“It's a mater of making sure we execute the game plan. It's always been about the next game, the next opponent, the next practice.”
Tonight it's about a Mount St. Mary's team that is developing a pressing style the Hoosiers last saw in the NCAA Tournament against VCU. Coach Jamion Christian was an assistant at VCU and brings its “Havoc” diamond press run by coach Shaka Smart.
“It's a lot of similarities,” Oladipo said. “They do the run-and-jump presses, and the trap presses. We just prepared for that. We kind of struggled a little bit with VCU in the (NCAA) tournament. I think we're more mature now. Since we've been through it, we know more of what to expect.”
The Mountaineers are led by guards Rashad Whack (11.5 points), Julian Norfleet (10.5) and Sam Prescott (10.2). The frontcourt is anchored by 6-9 Kristijan Krajina (5.4 points, 3.2 rebounds).
They average 61.2 points on 41.4 percent shooting. They allow 68.4 points on 56.9 percent shooting. They get out-rebounded by 8.6 boards a game. They force 17.9 turnovers.
Mount St. Mary's defeats include a 72-50 loss to Georgetown and an 80-48 loss to Pitt. This will be its seventh road game.
“I thought it would take a little bit longer for them to have that cohesiveness,” Johnson said. “Coach Christian has done a great job molding and shaping his guys. I expect a lot of great things for them in the future.”
In the present, the Hoosiers expect one thing – another victory.