The Indiana University men’s basketball team opened its regular season on Friday night with an 83-60 victory over Howard University. Much has been made by Indianapolis sports fans about IU’s incoming freshman class, and they didn’t disappoint in the regular season opener. For those who missed the action, here’s a recap of what the youngsters (and transfer player Jeremiah Rivers) offered up on Friday night.
Watford has more athleticism in his left wrist than the entire IU squad possessed last year. He’ll need to bulk up to excel in the brutal Big Ten conference, but his long arms and body control enabled him to pull down a team high 11 rebounds against Howard.
He also scored 14 points, went 5-for-5 from the free throw line, and recorded a block and a steal in his 24 minutes of play. He even showed a little range by knocking down his lone three-point attempt. I think it’s safe to say Watford will be an immediate crowd favorite, and contender for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.
Coming off an impressive showing in the final exhibition game, Creek once again endeared himself to Indianapolis basketball fans by leading the Hoosiers with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The shooting guard showed explosiveness to the hoop to go along with his outstanding shooting skills. Best of all, he demonstrated the ability to create — and make — his own shot, something Indiana was sorely missing last season. Along with Watford, Creek will most likely be IU’s leading scorer this season.
Elston, the 25th Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for the Hoosiers, had the most impressive debut out of all the freshman. Coming off the bench, he hit 6-of-7 shots and ended with 14 points in 14 minutes. Most impressive were the ways in which he scored. He had a weak-side putback, two inside layups, two three-pointers, and a corner drive that ended with a spin move into the lane for a silky smooth five footer. His offensive versatility will make the Tipton native a key cog off Tom Crean’s bench this season.
Rivers, a junior transfer from Georgetown, played more minutes than anyone (26), and his presence on the court will be key if Indiana hopes to be competitive this season. In dishing out four assists, Rivers was able to penetrate the middle of the defense, showing great vision once in the lane. He’s not much of a shooter (2-of-8), but he had four rebounds from the PG position, and notched a steal and a block as well. Crean will lean heavily on Rivers’ veteran leadership in 2009-10.
When Hulls entered the game I mistook him for Daniel Moore, that’s how small he seemed. Right away though, you could tell the Bloomington kid had a very keen understanding of how to distribute the ball. He led the team with five assists in just 17 minutes of action, while scoring two points of his own.
One memorable play, Hulls rebounded a missed shot, took two dribbles up the court and fired a perfect lob pass to Maurice Creek, who was separating from the defense at midcourt. The resulting dunk rocked the foundation of Assembly Hall. He’ll never be a big scorer, but Hulls is the type of pass-first point guard that championship teams are built around.
We didn’t get to see much of Capobianco on Friday night. He was the first big man off the bench, but picked up two quick fouls, and ended up playing just seven minutes. What little I did see of him, I liked. He showed a smooth shooting stroke on his only shot attempt (a three-pointer), made a nice backdoor pass from the top of the key, and sported some serious looking guns. No joke, by the time he’s a senior, “Capo” will be an absolute monster.
Muniru chipped in a layup during his six minutes of action. He appeared very limited offensively, but had a block and altered some shots on the defensive end. It’s pretty evident Muniru is still raw, but his frame and athleticism hint at future success for the Hoosiers.
IU’s back in action on Monday night to take on USC Upstate at 8:30. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network, or you can turn your radio dial to WLHK 97.1 Hank FM and listen to Don Fischer call the game. And be sure to keep checking back with funcityfinder.com for more IU updates.