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, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.