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December 28, 2012
With a New Year's Eve date in Iowa City against a fast improving Hawkeyes team looming, Indiana looks to get back into rhythm tonight against Jacksonville of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Dolphins are the last of a parade of non-conference opponents to Assembly Hall that don't exactly sport a resume that should strike a lot of fear into any BCS level opponent, much less a top five ranked team. Jacksonville sits at 5-7 on the season and out of the 347 teams in Division One, the Sagarin computer rankings have JU at No. 315 and the Pomeroy ratings have the team at No. 309.
Despite being slotted that low in the computer ratings, Jacksonville does have a road win over a mid-major. The Dolphins won at Missouri State on November 19, 64-58.
Playing away from Florida is also nothing new for this team.
"Jacksonville is a team that has been on the road this season in some tough places like Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri State and they won at Missouri State, a good Missouri Valley program," said Indiana associate head coach Steve McClain yesterday. "They are a team that knows you have to play at a high level and I expect them to be ready when they come in our building."
Cliff Warren's team won 20 games two seasons ago but slipped to 8-22 in 2011-12. A big difference over a year ago is the arrival of 6-foot-4 freshman Jarvis Haywood. The Charlotte native leads this team with 11.2 points per game and Saturday in a 65-53 home win over Furman, led the Dolphins with 16 points and nine rebounds. He even swatted three shots.
"They like to play inside-outside, create matchup problems," said McClain. "I think their freshman (Jarvis Haywood) is really having an outstanding year. He leads them in scoring. They are a team that plays with a great purpose and Cliff has done a good job of building them back up and a lot of new faces, but you can tell they are getting used to each other and playing together."
The only other double figure scorer for Jacksonville is 6-foot-1 junior guard Keith McDougald and he usually comes off the bench for Warren.
The big issue tonight for the Dolphins is going to be a height disadvantage. Jacksonville has no player over 6-foot-6 in its starting lineup. Ironically the only player taller than 6-foot-6 on JU is actually a Hoosier native. 6-foot-9, 235-pound freshman Tyler Alderman hails from Fishers, Indiana. Alderman has been seeing about 11 minutes off the bench on average in his first collegiate season, averaging 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest.
Another issue has been the porous outside shooting for Jacksonville this season. The Dolphins only knock down three-point shots at a 26.6 percent clip.
One good piece of news for fans tonight is the visitors likely won't slow things down.
"Jacksonville wants to get out and push and run," said IU guard Yogi Ferrell. "We always have to have a guy back on defense."
"Jacksonville will challenge our transition defense and our ability to stop middle drives," said head coach Tom Crean. "They love to drive the ball."
Indiana took a few days off after last Friday's win over Florida Atlantic. The Hoosiers got back at it Tuesday night and Crean liked what he saw from his team yesterday.
"Our players competitive nature was in full bloom today in practice," said Crean. "Great battles and team was vocal with one another. Rebounding was hard. Driving, sprinting the floor, footwork, shooting and energy were focal points."
Getting back into game mode before that difficult opener at Iowa is the real benefit of tonight's contest.
"I like the fact that we come back from the break and still have a non-conference game to get us back in our rhythm," said McClain. "The last two years, we have come back and opened up right with Big Ten games. The closer you get to conference play, the veteran guys know what is coming. For the younger guys, I think it's good to have a non-conference game especially after a break."
The game will tip at 8 p.m. ET. Kevin Kugler and Jim Jackson will have the call for the Big Ten Network.
For more on the broadcast details and on Jacksonville, check out the Hoosier Game Day page.
Expected starters and key reserves with current stats: