BLOOMINGTON -- It seems like an Indiana basketball paradox — play fast, pass smart, make good decisions.
Oh, and do it with youth.
That's coach Tom Crean's plan, and if it hasn't always worked (the Hoosiers have 38 more turnovers than assists this season), well, that's what the nonconference season is for. You work out the kinks now so they become strengths later.
And if IU (7-2) ever gets this assist-to-turnover thing down, look out.
“You've got to be able to bite your tongue once in a while as a coach,” Crean said. “We want to push the pace. We want to take open shots. And the way the rules are now, you're making a big mistake if you're settling for jump shots.”
That's fine, but fast play can lead to a lot of fast mistakes. Crean gets it. But the faster the athletic Hoosiers play and the more used they get used to it, the better they'll be in the long run.
“Some of it is understanding,” Crean said, “some is confidence with shooting, but everybody can impact the game with ball or body movement, or with rebounding. When they have that, they have a chance to make strides.
“At the same time, we get a lot of confidence from the running game. We're not turning people over and turning that into baskets like last year, but that will come. The more aggressive we get, the better we'll be.”
Point guard Yogi Ferrell is at the forefront of IU's running aggression. Often the best way to beat a good defense — and the Hoosiers will face plenty once Big Ten action starts — is to not face it because you're scoring on fast breaks.
“It's very difficult (to play so fast),” Ferrell said. “At times we'll be very rattled. But the last game (a win over North Florida), we did a great job with that.”
IU's 17-assist, 11-turnover effort was a season best and the latest sign the Hoosiers are buying what Crean preaches.
“You can't not be on the attack on offense,” Crean said. “We'll make some mistakes. That's part of it. But when we're sloppy and careless, when we try to be home run hitters, that's when you can't bite your tongue. Then you have to be strong with it. We're learning more about that.”
Indiana's learning tonight centers on Oakland University (2-7) and fear-no-shot guard Travis Bader. The senior is a threat to shoot once he crosses midcourt — and he's not looking for layups. He has attempted nearly 1,000 three-pointers in his career, and made nearly 400 of them. He's poised to end his career as the most prolific three-point shooter in NCAA history, breaking J.J. Redick's record of 457.
Not bad for a guy whose only scholarship offer coming out of high school was from Oakland.
This season Bader has made 40 of 98 attempts en route to a team-leading 21.1 scoring average.
“He never stops moving,” Crean said. “He uses his body to get open. He shot fakes. He knows how to set you up. He's a threat every time he has (the ball).”
Bader is relentless in his pursuit of three-point success. Early in the second half of last week's win over Ohio, he was 0 for 8 from three-point range. Did he switch to drives? Are you kidding? He finally hit a three-pointer, then two more. That gave him at least one three-point basket in 62 straight games, the nation's longest streak.
“He's fearless,” Crean said. “He's older. He's seen a myriad of defenses.”
That included North Carolina and UCLA defending him with 6-foot-9 forwards
IU likely won't show Bader anything he hasn't seen, but it will give him all sorts of attention with young, athletic and long players.
“He can get the ball up pretty quick,” Ferrell said. “There can't be any air space when we guard him. He can fire from anywhere. We have to limit his touches. That's our key.”
There's one more key.
“You can't let the great shooters get lost in the game,” Crean said. “They know how to find him. Our mission is to be as good defensively in the last five seconds (of the shot clock) as we are in the first five seconds.”
One Hoosier who almost certainly won't guard Bader is freshman Devin Davis. Crean said Davis is “doubtful” with a sprained ankle re-aggravated during Saturday's win over North Florida. Davis averages 3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds coming off the bench.
Oakland has two other double-figure scorers in Corey Petros (11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Duke Mondy (11.7 points, team-leading 25 steals). Guard Kahlil Felder has a team-best 42 assists and averages 8.1 points.
The Grizzlies have worked the frequent traveler miles hard, having already flown to North Carolina, California, Washington and South Carolina to play such national powers as North Carolina, UCLA and Gonzaga. The result: a 0-7 road record and a battle-tested team.
“They are playing with confidence,” Crean said. “They were on the road for their first seven games. They came back home and have won their last two games. They beat Ohio University, and Ohio is an excellent team. They beat them pretty soundly, so they are going to come in with confidence. We have to have confidence and we have to be extremely locked in to what we are trying to get done.”