Tom Crean wins second Big Ten title, but is that the answer to his problems at Indiana?

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Tom Crean just put the finishing touches on his second outright Big Ten regular season title in the past four seasons, going into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and knocking off No. 16 Iowa, 81-78.

It may not seem like Indiana winning two outright Big Ten titles in the span of four seasons is a big deal, but it is, particularly when you consider what Crean has been through this season.

There was no guarantee that Crean was actually going to get off of the plane with his job intact after Indiana was utterly humiliated in a loss at Duke earlier this season. I wrote a 2,000 word column on it at the time. It was as bad of a defensive performance as you’re ever going to see. The Hoosiers, at the time, had already lost to Wake Forest — who is currently avoiding the cellar of the ACC thanks to winless Boston College — and UNLV — who was so bad this season that their head coach was forced to resign three games into conference play.

The fan base had turned on him prior to the season, just waiting for him to give them a reason.

Then the mother of one of his best players cussed him out in a Facebook post.

Then he lost James Blackmon Jr., Indiana’s best shooter and second-leading scorer, to a season-ending knee injury.

The ending — a spiraling season culminating in a coaching change — was inevitable … until it wasn’t. Crean found a way to get a bunch of kids that never seemed all that interested in playing defense to become one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten. He turned Thomas Bryant from a liability into the active, aggressive paint presence that he was hyped as being when he entered the program as a freshman. He discovered his secret weapon, OG Anunoby. And he hitched his wagon to Yogi Ferrell, who managed to put together an all-american caliber season while carrying the Hoosiers as far as his 5-foot-11 frame will take them.

Before I go any further on Crean, it’s worth celebrating the season that Ferrell has had. He entered the program with an unfathomable amount of expectation, the centerpiece of a highly-regarded recruiting class of in-state kids that was supposed to join forces with Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and company and return the Hoosiers to the glory of yesteryear.

But Zeller and Oladipo went pro after Yogi’s freshman season. Then each and every other member of that recruiting class transferred out of the program, either because they weren’t good enough or because they spent too much time making headlines for things like underage drinking or getting busted for possession. Yogi himself wasn’t immune, as he got popped for using a fake ID.

His legacy was on the line this season.

And regardless of what happens the rest of the month, he’ll leave Bloomington as a legend, never to pay for another meal in the Hoosier State again.

So good for him.

Moments like this really only happen in college sports, and for it to happen this way for a basketball player at a basketball school in a basketball state is one of the great stories this season.

And good for Tom Crean.

Because he just relieved quite a bit of the pressure that was on him. Remember, things were so bad in Indiana that fans would chant ‘Tom Crean Sucks’ at Crean’s son’s high school basketball games.

But the question now becomes whether or not this is going to be enough to win people over. On the one hand, the Crean era can no longer be called a disappointment. He’s won two outright Big Ten regular season titles since Obama was given a second term in office. In the 20 seasons before that, Indiana had won just a single Big Ten title, back in 2002, and that includes the first three years of Crean’s tenure, which he spent trying to rebuild on the scorched earth that was left by Kelvin Sampson.

On the other hand, Indiana fans are never fully going to be behind Crean again. All it is going to take is one slip-up for them to come for his throat. What if he loses in the opening round of the NCAA tournament? What if Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant head to the NBA, leaving Crean in full blown rebuilding mode once again? Will the Hoosier faithful be happy with yet another season of sitting around and waiting for a crop of incoming freshmen to become accustomed to the college game?

Ron Davis is the perfect example of this.

Who is Ron Davis?

He’s one of the random twitter users that spends their days defending their favorite team against the biased hatred of sportswriters everywhere. He believed I had somehow disrespected Tom Crean, and after yelling at me for a couple of tweets, he told me that Crean “has proved by turning [the season] around he deserve the respect of Hoosiers everywhere….For how long I don’t know.”

I added the bold.

Because that’s my point here.

How long is Crean going to be in the good graces of the Hoosier State, and will that be enough for him — or the powers that be at Indiana — to decide whether or not a change needs to be made?

Will Crean decide that it’s better to leave a year too early instead of a year too late, that risking the quality of his life and his family’s life is not worth the money? Will Indiana do what UCLA did when they got rid of Ben Howland after he won a conference title?

I don’t have that answer. I’m not sure Crean or the Indiana Athletic Department currently does, either.

What I do know is that the relationship between that coach, that school and those fans is not going to be fixed simply by winning the Big Ten regular season title …

… again.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.