Will Sheehey

No. 2 Indiana survives Northwestern, but bench play is still a concern

1 Comment

When talk begins about how the Big Ten is the nation’s toughest conference, Northwestern doesn’t typically come up.

Sunday afternoon, though, the Wildcats were very much so in the conversation, giving Indiana a road test before ultimately falling to the Hoosiers, 67-59, in Evanston, Ill.

Indiana had little trouble with the Wildcats in the first half, leading at the break by 14 points, 31-17. Christian Watford came out aggressive from the opening tip, knocking down a three-pointer on the Hoosiers’ first possession.

But Northwestern’s zone began to take hold in the second half. The Wildcats extended out well away from the basket and, for an eight-minute stretch over the course of the middle of the second, Indiana was held without a field goal.

In that time, Northwestern ripped off a 14-4 run. Integral to that run was the Wildcats spreading the ball around. Four different players scored during that stretch.

Northwestern pulled the game to as close as five points with just over 90 seconds remaining, but a Jordan Hulls floater in the lane pushed the Indiana lead back to seven points.

But one enduring point of emphasis for the Hoosiers is the play of their bench.

Will Sheehey came into Sunday’s game having not scored in the past two games, going a combined 0-of-7 from the floor in 33 minutes. He broke that drought with six points and four rebounds, but that is still off his season average of 10.5 points per game.

Outside of Sheehey, guard Remy Abell went scoreless for a second straight game vs. Northwestern. He now has one combined point in his last three games. Jeremy Hollowell also went scoreless.

Against deeper teams in Big Ten play, Indiana will need more from Sheehey, Abell, and Hollowell.

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

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
Getty Images
Leave a comment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”