FORT WAYNE – Indiana coach Tom Crean understands there are no shortcuts for his basketball team.
The Hoosiers (10-5, 0-2 Big Ten) enter today’s game at Penn State (9-7, 0-3) looking for their first conference victory as they continue to adjust to having new players and others take on bigger roles.
There are so many things to emphasize with a young team for them to understand how to win, Crean said during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference. You’ve got to keep making sure your emphasis remains ongoing, but at the same time, you don’t take shortcuts. We’re in the process of that.
IU returned only guard Yogi Ferrell to the starting lineup from last year. Will Sheehey, the conference’s reigning sixth man of the year, has moved into the starting lineup.
The Hoosiers are trying to blend the two veterans into the starting lineup along with sophomore Jeremy Hollowell, whose minutes jumped from 9.7 per game last year to 23.3 this season, and freshmen Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh. And the team is also relying on senior transfer Evan Gordon and freshmen Stanford Robinson and Devin Davis.
One thing that can help the Hoosiers’ process is for Vonleh to become more assertive on offense.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder averaged 13.3 points through the first nine games, but he is averaging 9.6 points in the last six games and scored in double digits just twice in that time. He is averaging 11.8 points, second on the team.
He’s going against physical people, Crean said after Vonleh was held to six points in a 73-56 home loss to No. 5 Michigan State on Jan. 4. We’ve got to do a better job of creating a passing angle. We’re trying to make it simple to get it in. But we’ve got to be better.
Noah has got to be a demanding presence and become downright a little selfish. I hate using that term, but that’s what he’s got to be around the paint.
IU will be facing a team in Penn State that is asking its players to be a little less selfish.
Nittany Lions guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are sixth and seventh in scoring in the Big Ten, averaging 17.1 and 16.6 points.
Forward Ross Travis averages 11.1 points, and guard John Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, has averaged 11 points in four games.
While Penn State players can score individually, they are not finding ways to score as a group. Less than half of the team’s points are coming off assists.
We just got to learn to play together, Penn State associate head coach Keith Urgo said on the Big Ten teleconference. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s just continuing to get reps in practice and playing together, and eventually they will learn how to play with one and other and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.