SIU-Edwardsville visits soaring Indiana
It is one of those teacher vs. pupil coaching matchups Friday night when No. 13 Indiana plays Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in Bloomington, Ind., two nights after the Hoosiers stunned No. 3 North Carolina 76-67.
SIU-Edwardsville (4-3) is coached by Jon Harris, an Edwardsville, Ill., native who played three seasons at Marquette for current Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Harris' Cougars won their past two games, including a 76-64 victory at Grand Canyon, a game in which guard Carlos Anderson scored 18 points. The Indiana game will be especially significant for Cougars' starting forward Keenan Simmons, a Michigan City, Ind., native who is averaging 7.4 points.
Cougars guard Christian Ellis already has two Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Week honors. He is averaging 10.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
"The key to our recruiting is to bring in winners and people who expect to win," Harris said of his improving team. "That's a mindset and a direction, and we are trending in that direction in our locker room."
Indiana's locker room will be void of a key element Friday night and again on Sunday when the Hoosiers play Southeast Missouri. Six-foot-8 sophomore wing O.G. Anunoby, who scored 16 points against North Carolina, sustained an ankle sprain late in the game and was ruled out at least through the weekend.
Averaging 12.5 points and six rebounds, Anunoby was Indiana's leading scorer in the past two games, contributing 21 last Sunday in a victory against Mississippi Valley State.
Indiana (5-1) stumbled in an overtime loss at Fort Wayne but since beat two teams ranked No. 3 when they played the Hoosiers -- first Kansas in Hawaii and now North Carolina, which fell behind 23-9 early and never fully recovered.
"It shows us that we have to bring it every night," Crean said. "We have to have that kind of effort and mindset. ...
"When we played Kansas, we took every blow in that game. We delivered blows. We had great togetherness and great energy with one another. In the Fort Wayne game, we got quiet. We got back on our heels. And nobody took control of the team. When you don't have an individual leader, it's got to be collective."
Indiana center Thomas Bryant believes the Hoosiers are beginning to see the big picture, especially when they play in Assembly Hall, which was energized Wednesday night by the return of the 1981 NCAA tournament championship team that defeated North Carolina.
"You feel it even before you step on the floor," Bryant said of the home-court advantage Indiana experiences each time it plays in Assembly Hall, which recently underwent a makeover. "It makes you want to go out on that floor and play your best every time."
Hoosiers junior guard James Blackmon Jr. added after the North Carolina game, "We just wanted to bring the energy with us. The fans really helped us with the energy."
This is only the second meeting between Indiana and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Hoosiers won the first matchup in 2010.