Looking to distance itself from a school worst 6-25 record last season, the Indiana basketball team opened the year with two straight wins over Howard and USC Upstate. Just because the competition was inferior didn’t stop fans from hoping that this season would bring about a drastic change from misery of 2008-09. After all, freshman Christian Watford, Derek Elston (from Tipton, IN) and Maurice Creek showed exciting talent in reaching double-digit point totals in each of the first two contests, and Jeremiah Rivers ran the point like the veteran he is. Unfortunately, a trip to Puerto Rico brought all the optimism to a grinding halt.
Playing in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off preseason tournament, the Hoosiers faced a big, athletic Ole Miss team in the opening round. They hung tough for most of the game, but Mississippi’s strength down low and stifling half-court defense prevented Tom Crean’s team from getting any closer than eight points in the second half. In the second round, facing a beatable Boston University squad, Indiana held a 34-29 halftime lead, and actually led by as many as nine points after the break, but were outrebound 23-10 in the second half as they squandered their lead, eventually falling 71-67.
In the final game of the tournament, IU matched up against an underrated George Mason team. It was a back-and-forth contest from start to finish, with neither team holding a lead of more than six points. Watford tied the score up at 65 with 41 seconds left, but a banked in three-pointer with 6 seconds left to play by George Mason’s Cam Long sent the Hoosiers to their third straight defeat and a last place finish in the tourney.
NEXT UP: Indiana returns home to Bloomington on Saturday afternoon to take on Northwestern State, and then play host to Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.
The sixth ranked Boilermakers opened the season with convincing wins over CSU Northridge, South Dakota St., and St. Joseph’s. The three-headed monster of in-state players E’Twaun Moore (East Chicago), Robbie Hummel (Valparaiso), and JaJuan Johnson (Franklin Central) paced Matt Painter’s team in the scoring department, and senior point guard Chris Kramer (Huntington) showed why’s a three-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team player by shutting down the opposition’s penetration into the lane.
Purdue’s victories over South Dakota and St. Joseph’s came in the opening two rounds of the Paradise Jam tournament held on the U.S. Virgin Islands, setting the stage for a finals game against ninth-ranked Tennessee. The game lived up to the hype, as the Boilers, paced by tournament MVP Moore’s 22 points, held on for a 73-72 victory to take home the title. It almost was not to be however. Leading by a single point with 17 seconds left to play, freshman Kelsey Barlow (Indianapolis) missed two free throws, giving the ball back to the Volunteers with a chance to win the game outright. Luckily for Purdue fans, Tennessee’s Wayne Chism missed a three from the top the key as time expired to help the Boilers remain undefeated.
NEXT UP: Purdue begins a stretch of four straight games in West Lafayette on Saturday morning against Central Michigan. They then play Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Butler entered the season ranked 11th in the nation, the highest a Bulldog team’s ever been ranked in the preseason. While hardly dominating, Butler’s strung together three straight wins, justifying the lofty expectations. A scrappy Davidson team visited Hinkle Fieldhouse for the season opener, and the Bulldogs actually found themselves trailing by two with just under 10 minutes remaining before going on a 15-4 run to dispatch the Wildcats 73-62. From there, Butler traveled north to take on Big Ten participant Northwestern. There were no struggles this time around, as Brad Stevens’ squad never trailed, leading by as many as 21 points in the second half. Led by Shelvin Mack’s 15, the Bulldogs had five players score nine-plus points, and they registered 17 assists against only 10 turnovers.
Next on the schedule was a trip to Evansville to take on the Aces, and though the Indianapolis based team salvaged a 64-60 victory, it was by far their worst performance of the season. Shooting just 28 percent from the field, Butler allowed Evansville’s Colt Ryan (Batesville, IN) to score 12 points in the final minutes in the too-close-for-comfort contest. Brownsburg’s Gordon Hayward paces the team in both points (15.3) and rebounding (8.0), while Connersville’s Matt Howard, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, is averaging a slightly disappointing 9.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
NEXT UP: Butler faces their toughest challenge of the early season when they host #22 Minnesota on Thursday night. Games against in-state rivals Ball St. and Valparaiso follow, with back-to-back games against #18 Georgetown and #17 Ohio State on the docket in early December.
With expectation as high as they’ve ever been for Ron Hunter and his IUPUI team, the Jaguars hit the road for games against Drake and Eastern Illinois to start the season. They returned home to downtown Indianapolis in their third game to take on Austin Peay, and after beating the Governor’s 77-63, IUPUI found themselves sitting at 3-0 heading into a clash with SEC opponent Auburn.
The Jaguars held a 13 point lead early in the first half, but foul trouble to star forward Robert Glenn prevented the team from holding onto the lead. While the final score (80-65) wasn’t what they’d hoped for, Hunter had to be happy that his unit competed with, and led, the much more talented Tigers. IUPUI rebounded in their next game by beating Georgia St. 67-65 in overtime.
Glenn’s been his usual dominating self for the 4-1 Jaguars, contributing 19.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game, but more surprising has been the play of forwards Alex Young (Ben Davis) and Leroy Nobles. Both players are chipping in over 15 points per contest.
NEXT UP: IUPUI returns to the friendly confines of The Jungle to take on the New Castle based IU East before traveling to Manhattan, KS to face a very tough Kansas State team. If the Jaguars can pull off an upset over the Big 12 foe, enthusiasm for the team will be at an all-time high for Indianapolis sports fans who follow the team.