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COLUMN

A Crean call to Indiana basketball arms

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Tipoff: Indiana at Penn State, noon, Saturday
Radio: 1250-AM
TV: BTN

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Hoosier spotlight focuses on sophomores

Monday, January 6, 2014 - 12:31 am

BLOOMINGTON -- Tom Crean and Tom Izzo spoke the same motivational language. Izzo mentioned specific names. Crean was slightly more discrete.

Slightly.

Will the Indiana Hoosiers respond?

Hold that thought.

In the meantime, get frustrated, get ticked, get used to it. Welcome to Hoosier basketball life -- 10-5 with a two-game losing streak, the talent to turn it around, no time table on when that will happen.

“We've got to grow out of this because it's getting me downright angry with it,” Crean said.

Sometimes young guys go brain dead. They do dumb things. They play with immaturity. In time, this will pass.

In time.

“(Michigan State guard) Travis Trice was shooting 74 percent from 3 in away games,” Crean said. “We probably said that 37,000 times in the last three days. You don't leave him. You don't do it.”

The Hoosiers did.

That's a similar message Purdue coach Matt Painter once told his players about former IU sharpshooter Matt Roth. What happened? The Boilers left him open in Assembly Hall and Painter couldn't watch when Roth buried the three.

Sometimes young guys go brain dead.

Repeat if necessary.

Saturday's 73-56 loss to No. 5 Michigan State showcased Hoosier potential and pitfall. They don't play again until Saturday, when they travel to Penn State. They don't play at Assembly Hall until a Jan. 14 meeting with No. 4 Wisconsin.

They have time to work on issues such as turnovers, offensive execution and defensive communication. They are improving. The Michigan State score was lopsided more because of Spartan excellence rather than Indiana mediocrity.

Still, the Hoosiers must play better at all positions. Crean put sophomores Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera- Perea at the top of the list that would also include seniors Will Sheehey and Eric Gordon, and freshmen Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson.

“We need to see more out of everybody,” Crean said. “When you lose, there's not one class that doesn't need to get better. But we've got the spotlight on the sophomores right now, if we're going to break it down to class. They've got to improve. Everybody has places they can grow in.

“We just need to play. We need to understand time and score. We need to understand what the game is bringing. The more you play, the more you learn that. I get that. I hope the fans get that. It's not like all of a sudden you can put three months of Big Ten basketball into these guys' bodies.

“We can show them all the film we want. It doesn't work that way.”

Translation: experience matters.

In the end, teams are only as good as their player leadership. There's the memorable line from IU's 1976 national title team that the person players feared the most was not coach Bob Knight (he yelled; he swore; he went hunting), but senior guard Quinn Buckner. Mess up and you answered to him.

For Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, an outsider with inside perspective given his friendship with Crean (Crean was once a successful assistant under Izzo), it comes down to Ferrell and senior swingman Will Sheehey.

“This is where Sheehey and Yogi have to be men,” Izzo said. “They've got to stand up.

“Tom has has been through it. He's rebuilt programs. He's done it. He knows what it's like. He'll be fine. But with those young freshmen, that's where your upperclassmen really have to stand up and explain how it is and understand how it is."

Here's how it is -- the Big Ten ain't Nicholls State and Kennesaw State, the teams IU played to end the non-conference schedule (memo to Crean and athletic director Fred Glass -- schedule one or two fewer non-conference teams like that and more of, say, Kentucky at Lucas Oil or Louisville home and home). It's tough and intense, and that's just the scouting reports.

“The scouting really improves in our league and that makes it tougher,” Izzo said. “They'll adjust to it.

“Vonleh will learn that conference play is a little bit different than non-conference play. You can take more things away. We're going to pack it in. We're going to stay off people.”

Izzo, by the way, thinks Vonleh and Williams are big-time prospects.

“I love Vonleh, and Williams will be great,” he said.

“Indiana will get a lot better and those young kids will get a lot better. By the end of the year, this will be a good team.”

For those who see disaster in Indiana losing in overtime at Illinois before getting hammered at home by Michigan State, who forever question Crean's coaching ability, Izzo offered this thought:

“Indiana didn't have the easiest start. You have to be realistic about it.”

And then:

“Indiana has been such a dominant program throughout the years. They have had some legendary coaches, and I think they have one now.”

Legend or not, remember this: winning cures almost everything.

Almost.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.