In front of approximately 750 southern Indiana Hoosier fans, Tom Crean and the IU men's basketball team put on a display of drills and workouts before finishing up with a scrimmage. The event, which took place at Nolan Fieldhouse, took nearly two hours.
The teams started their second practice of the day with a lay-up drill, in which assistant coaches waited in the lane to greet the players with football pads. If players finger-rolled or did not attempt to go up strong, they were disciplined with push-ups.
Following the pad drill, the teams split up with guards on one half and big men on the other. The sides were fairly straight forward, with the exception of senior guard Devan Dumes, who worked out with the bigs. They finished up their hour-long warm-up session with some passing and defensive drills before taking a water break.
The biggest, and most anticipated, draw of the afternoon was the scrimmage. The two teams of five started out slow, playing a half-court set before opening up to a full-court session. In the half-court set, guard Verdell Jones had a team-high eight points. But freshman forward Christian Watford had perhaps the best showing, tallying six points and playing way above the rim for the most of the set. His size constantly gave him a mismatch against his defender, and he continued to show the ability to get to the rim with little difficulty. He also had a strong showing defensively, blocking a Dumes lay-up that was later called as a "foul".
For the full-court scrimmage, the following were the starting line-ups for both teams… (Both teams would make numerous switches throughout the games to even the teams up a bit more.)
The story line of the scrimmage ended up being the battle of the point guards between Jones and Rivers. The duo seemed to match each other stride-for-stride for most of the contest and by the end, it was apparent the two were evenly matched: both players finished with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Rivers seemed to make more happen for the Red team by his use of penetration. Many times, he found his way to the lane and was able to dish off to teammates, who would either take that shot or make the extra pass. But more importantly for the junior transfer was that he silenced some critics with his ability to shoot the ball. Many of Rivers' points came from 15-feet or beyond and drained more than jumpshots than in previous scrimmages.
Jones, on the other hand, did many of the same things he did throughout last season. The sophomore was all over the court, pulling up for jumpers and sinking longballs. However, a big difference between the 2008 Jones and the 2009 Jones was the perception of added weight. The Illinois native drew contact, but was able to finish with a bit more authority as compared to his previous season. While there is still improvement in weight needed, it was a pleasant surprise.
Creek was the other lone scorer in double figures with 13. While he didn't make plays happen on his own, he was able to finish when the ball was headed his way. He sunk numerous three-pointers, but also forced up a couple of questionable long-rangers. He was also one of the main targets for his defense in the earlier drills, which didn't leave Crean and his coaching staff with a warm feeling.
The freshman guard also spent a majority of time squared off against Dumes. The two seemed to have high level of personal competitiveness when guarding each other, perhaps to the uncertainty of the starting line-up. Dumes tallied nine points on the afternoon and was very active on the boards.
The big men had a bit of trouble in the scrimmages, perhaps stemming from the intense drills and fast pace of the game. Capobianco scored six points and added a nice full-court outlet pass to Jones that led to a lay-up. Pritchard had six points and five rebounds, using his size well close around the basket. Elston was the best big-man surprise, tallying four points and a team-high seven rebounds and playing with a tough demeanor down low. Gambles had a couple of nice follows and rebounds, finishing with four points and two rebounds.
The two tall trees, Jobe and Muniru,, had two points and a handful of rebounds each. Both continued to struggle with their hands, dropping numerous entry passes and failing to finish close around the rim. Both showed they are extremely quick and athletic with their ability to get up-and-down the floor, but still appear fairly raw on offense and defense.
Two of the freshmen, Watford and Hulls, were quiet throughout the scrimmage, with both finishing with just five points. Like the other big men, Watford seemed to tire as the scrimmage went on. His aggressiveness that he had during the earlier drills subsided in later games. Hulls played more of the floor general, only attempting his two made shots. However, he seemed held in check pretty well by Moore.
Roth never really found an open three-point shot and only finished with three points and one rebound. However, his stroke early in warm-ups had some crowd members in awe of his consecutive three-point streak. Moore was all around the court and still showed the ability to get into the lane.
Verdell Jones hit the eventual game-winning shot in the final moments of the scrimmage. Red called a time-out, but turned the ball over before even attempting a shot. Capobianco's free throws iced the Team White victory.
Crean seemed to preach defense to his young team as much as any other aspect. He picked quite a bit on Hulls and Creek, telling them to get quicker and be more active. But he also spent a lot of time on Jobe and Muniru, who failed to get low and block off the baseline.
It still appears that this team is looking for a leader. Rivers has the most potential to, but appears to be somewhat quiet on the floor. You would look at perhaps Dumes or Jones to help Rivers with firing this team up, but the leader still appears to be a question the Hoosier must figure out. The lack of a floor leader was quite apparent at times.
The big men need to continue to work on conditioning. It was very clear that the bigger guys were tiring late and their playing level took a huge hit due to it.
Finally, the team had to make 86 lay-ups in two minutes before the practice was over. With the encouragement of the still nearly-full crowd, the team finished with 90 lay-ups.