Cody Zeller

Indiana doesn’t always have to look to Cody Zeller to win games

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BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Indiana had coach Tom Crean on edge for the first 31 minutes of its match-up with Georgia at Barclays Center Monday night.

Leading by just three points with nine minutes remaining in the second half, senior Jordan Hulls hit a three-pointer then drew a charge on the next defensive possession.

On the ensuing possession, he hit another three-pointer, pushing the lead to nine. The Hoosiers would eventually lead by as many as 15, going on to win, 66-53, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Indiana overcame early offensive struggles from the opening tip, with Georgia ripping off a 7-0 run after the Hoosiers scored the opening basket.

Zeller was in foul trouble for much of the first half, taking just three shots in the first 20 minutes. The Indiana offense was predominantly working off of one-on-one matchups on the perimeter, which translated into just 32 percent from the field.

The Hoosiers turned up the tempo in the second, led by guard Victor Oladipo’s aggressiveness in getting to the basket.

But it was Hulls’ three-possession run that keyed the Indiana victory Monday night. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range.

“We had a lot of different sources of energy. Jordan Hulls is a big part of that,” Crean said. “With all the NBA people here tonight, that’s an NBA guard. That young man is a huge winner who has a lot of skills.”

As a senior leader alongside the young Yogi Ferrell, Hulls is the experienced half of the Hoosier backcourt.

“Hulls is a very good player,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox. “He’s a very good player. He’s never sped up. He understands the game.

“He has an old man’s game. He’s got shot fakes. He’s a great piece with Zeller because Zeller draws so much attention. The way they’re used together is very effective.”

Having Hulls and other weapons like Oladipo and senior Christian Watford, not all of the weight falls on Zeller’s shoulders. While many expect him to have perhaps a National Player of the Year-type season, he may not need to be as key in big spots for the Hoosiers because of the other options Crean has at his disposal.

Is he capable of it? Absolutely. But as Oladipo showed with his seven straight points early in the second half, Crean can look to other players with Zeller always in his back pocket.

“They’re a very balanced team. He doesn’t have to shoot every time for them to be good,” said Fox. “They’re so balanced, he doesn’t have to have a dozen shots a night for them to win.”

“What they learned is they can play a lot of different paces,” said Crean. “Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

“The thing about Cody is you can play around him or you can play through him. He’s had a rough week with being sick and that’s not an excuse, but he’ll be fine.”

Indiana takes on the winner of UCLA vs. Georgetown in the championship game of the Legends Classic Tuesday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No. 4 Maryland refocuses, slows down No. 18 Purdue

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon watches from the sideline during a break in play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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No. 18 Purdue and No. 4 Maryland exchanged leads for most of the first 33 minutes before the Boilermakers scored five straight points on layups by Rapheal Davis (who was fouled on his make) and Caleb Swanigan. Purdue was getting the touches it wanted around the basket, and Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins weren’t doing a whole lot to keep it from happening either.

Turgeon called a timeout to get his team back in sync defensively, and as a result Maryland went on a 9-0 run that ultimately led to their winning by the final score of 72-61.

Maryland’s big men, Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone, did a much better job down the stretch of keeping Purdue from getting the ball inside to senior center A.J. Hammons. Hammons finished the game with 18 points and ten rebounds, but only two of those points came after Maryland’s 9-0 second half run. But keeping the ball from getting inside is just as much about the players defending the passers as it is keeping the big(s) from getting to his preferred spot.

Defensively Maryland took away the passing angles and essentially made Purdue’s guards make plays, something they’ve struggled with at times this season. That led to far too many perimeter shots for Purdue, which shot 3-for-23 on the day from beyond the arc. Add in the fact that they attempted just five free throws as a team, making two, and areas in which the Boilermakers can benefit went neglected in College Park.

By comparison Maryland was able to make a habit of going to the foul line, shooting 24-for-27 from the charity stripe with Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble combining to go 17-for-19 on the day. The foul line helped Trimble make up for an off day from the field, as he shot 2-for-12, but the sophomore’s ability to work off of ball screens ultimately opened things up for Maryland even with his shots not falling.

Add in the fact that Sulaimon (21 points, ten rebounds) and Carter (19 points, seven rebounds) were able to pick up the slack, with Diamond Stone adding 12 points and six rebounds, and it’s easy to see why Maryland was able to turn things around down the stretch.

Maryland’s been a good defensive team this season, but they got away from that for a significant portion of Saturday’s game. A key timeout to get the team refocused paid off, the the Terrapins defending at a level that made it incredibly difficult for Purdue to get anything going. And as a result, Maryland remains within a game of leaders Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten title race.

Darryl Reynolds shines, Kris Dunn struggles as No. 3 Villanova beat No. 11 Providence

Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dunks the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 83-58. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Replacing the injured Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game as the result of a concussion, Darryl Reynolds finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 boards as No. 3 Villanova went into Providence and knocked off the No. 11 Friars, 72-60.

Josh Hart chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards (seven of which were offensive), Kris Jenkins notched a double-double as well and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 in Big East play, keeping them all alone in first place in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win, which wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, is that Villanova did it while shooting just 5-for-22 from three. The Wildcats have been reliant on the three during this recent run atop the conference, and on Saturday, they won by controlling the the glass and the paint.

Reynolds’ performance was something else. This is a guy who entered the game averaging just 2.3 points and a reputation for being little more than the reason that Ochefu played so many minutes, but it got to the point on Saturday that he was being double-teamed in the post to get the ball out of his hands. That’s pretty remarkable.

As if the fact that Villanova, playing without their best rebounder, grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and totally controlled the defensive glass.

 

Much of that is likely due to the fact that Ben Bentil, the 6-foot-8 forward for the Friars that is the Big East’s leading scorer, was dealing with an ankle injury he suffered at DePaul earlier this week. He finished 20 points, but much of that came in the form of jumpers and shots at the rim while his two rebounds was much more indicative of the impact that he was able to make with his ankle.

But what was really concerning for Providence was that Kris Dunn was downright awful. He shot 4-for-15 from the floor, committed six turnovers and simply made the wrong decision too many times. Yes, he was likely pressing due to the fact that Bentil was injured and Villanova’s defense was keying on him, but it’s not exactly comforting to know that this is what his floor is.

He’s Kris Dunn.

He’s going to be keyed on by defenses every single time he steps on a basketball court.

He has to be better than he was today.