While nobody in the country is putting up more points per game
than Indiana, it’s been a much-improved defensive display that’s
set it apart from the pack.
The top-ranked Hoosiers look to keep rolling on both ends of the
court when they host Central Connecticut State and the nation’s
leading scorer Saturday.
After going a Big Ten-worst 28-66 during coach Tom Crean’s first
three seasons in Bloomington, the Hoosiers (8-0) returned to the
national spotlight in 2011-12, reaching the regional semifinals of
the NCAA tournament behind an offense that posted 77.3 points per
game to rank 18th in the country.
Though the Hoosiers are averaging an even more impressive 87.8
this season, their ability to clamp down defensively could prove to
be the difference down the stretch. Indiana ranks 20th in scoring
defense with an average of 56.0 points allowed after giving up 66.4
per game last season.
“We put a big emphasis on defense from the beginning of the year
and throughout the year. Defense wins games, and we can’t always
rely on our offense too much,” said junior guard Victor Oladipo,
third in the conference with 18 steals.
“We score in transition and we score in multiple ways. But
essentially we score off our defense. We’ve got to continue to play
defense at a high level, continue to help each other so we can win
The Hoosiers had another strong performance last Saturday,
limiting Coppin State to 33.9 percent shooting and forcing 17
turnovers in an 87-51 rout.
“They played extremely hard, even at the beginning when shots
weren’t going, we were having some turnovers,” Crean said of his
team. “These guys, they were ready to go. And if they’re not ready
to go, it shows up in effort, it shows up in your running ability,
it shows up in lackadaisical travels and things like that. We
didn’t have any. It was just a matter of time.”
The Eagles did a good job of containing preseason All-American
Cody Zeller with their zone defense, holding the 7-foot sophomore
to nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. Zeller leads Indiana with 15.0
points per game.
“We will see more zone,” Oladipo said. “But at the end of the
day, we can still get the ball to Cody.”
Indiana isn’t likely to take its foot off the pedal in its first
matchup against Central Connecticut State (4-3). The Hoosiers have
compiled 26 consecutive home wins over non-conference foes by an
average of 30.2 points.
Indiana is surely looking forward to the challenge of slowing
down Blue Devils guard Kyle Vinales, who ranks first in the country
with 25.9 points per game.
The sophomore standout scored 27 to lead all five starters in
double figures and dished out a season-best seven assists Wednesday
in an 87-84 win at New Hampshire.
Central Connecticut State, which has won four of five, hasn’t
faced a ranked foe since falling 84-47 at then-No. 17 Arizona State
on Dec. 29, 2008.