Indiana Basketball – Season on the Brink II Sees a Turn for the Better with Hollowell on the Bench

by Kent Sterling

Jeremy Hollowell's removal from the rotation has coincided with two very solid wins for Indiana.

Jeremy Hollowell’s removal from the rotation has coincided with two very solid wins for Indiana.

Indiana beat #3 Wisconsin last night 75-72 in a game very few thought would be competitive.  The Hoosiers last beat the Badgers almost seven years ago, and this might be Bo Ryan’s best group yet.

Wisconsin played a half-step slow, and defended with uncharacteristic indifference, but a win over the #3 team in the nation is a good win regardless of which team played well and who played poorly.

Down by 15 at Penn State on Saturday afternoon, it looked like the Hoosiers were staring an 0-4 Big Ten start dead in the eye, but they roared back for their first conference win after losses at home to Michigan State and in overtime at the other Assembly Hall in Campaign.  Last night’s win evened their record at 2-2.

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Instead of wondering whether Indiana could find the mojo to squeak into the NIT, now fans are looking toward the NCAA Tournament as a possibility again.  Funny what good a couple of three-point wins will do for the outlook of fans.

It’s not hard to look ahead and plot a course to a 9-9 Big Ten record.  Wins at home against Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska put the Hoosiers at six wins.  Road wins versus Nebraska, Northwestern, and Purdue flip that six into a nine.  Nine conference wins will likely punch the Hoosiers ticket to the Big Dance.

What has happened over the past four days to hang a tight and sharp u-turn for this young but talented team?

It would be too easy and cruel to hang the credit for the turnaround on the benching of Jeremy Hollowell, but that’s the most obvious place to start.  Indiana went from looking like a plodding and indifferent team to an enthusiastic group that moves the ball quickly on offense and at the very least communicates defensively.

The Hoosiers still missed defensive assignments in last night’s game against Wisconsin, but the lack of turnovers on offense were a major help in limiting the Badgers’ attack.  Nine turnovers is a manageable number, and given Indiana’s propensity for allowing live ball turnovers to become points on the other end (17 points Wisconsin points came from those nine turnovers), they need to hold onto the ball.

Hollowell turned the ball over quite a bit before his benching, but what was worse was that he slowed the movement of the ball by catching and evaluating with almost every touch, rather than moving it.  Austin Etherington has taken the majority of Hollowell’s minutes, and one area where he is very valuable is in moving the ball quickly.

If we were able to gain access the the statistic for time spent in possession of the ball per touch, Etherington would likely come in at under one second.  He anticipates well, and is a very decisive passer.  He recognizes the flow of the game very well, as evidenced by the lob in transition he called for from Yogi Ferrell with 6:15 left in the game to give Indiana a 61-57 lead.

Three defenders were back for Wisconsin, but all had their backs turned to Etherington on the weak side.  Etherington raised his hand, cut to the rim, and Ferrell delivered an accurate pass to his former AAU teammate.

It wasn’t a flashy dunk – just a routine left handed layup that penalized a fundamental lapses for the Badgers – but it was a key moment that represented the type of basketball winning teams play.

At this point, there has been no explanation as to what led to Hollowell’s benching other than several references to a lack of focus, but the results have not been a resounding endorsement of the Hoosiers’ need for his services.  Two solid wins with Hollowell as a spectator makes it difficult to imagine how he might find his way off the bench.

The conversation among fans about the Hoosiers has morphed from “what happens if they don’t improve next year?” to “this is a really young team that is finding itself, and might be a bitch to play against come March.”

A lot has happened between noon on Saturday and 9p on Tuesday.  A season on the brink has become a season of great promise.

5 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Season on the Brink II Sees a Turn for the Better with Hollowell on the Bench

  1. Jeff Gregory

    With all due respect, the thought that any presence of Hollowell on the floor means doom for IU is kind of out of place. There is one of two things going on here with Hollowell. Either he is so deep in Crean’s dog house that the coach is trying to push him to transfer, or – and this is more likely, Crean is trying to fashion Hollowell in a more energetic and beneficial player.

    If it were a mere demotion, Hollowell would be coming in for a few minutes off the bench. Since Hollowell’s ability has impressed Crean enough to start him for the first several games, I doubt the coach is so willing to completely write him off as an overrated bum.

    Either Hollowell will respond to Crean’s approach and make IU all the better, or he will leave the team. We will just have to stay tuned.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Not sure anyone was so strident as to suggest that Hollowell being a part of the Hoosiers’ on floor effort means doom, but there is no escaping the correlation – whether happenstance or not – that Indiana has won twice with Hollowell seated while they lost twice while he played.

  2. Warren / TN.

    Big win for IU last night, no doubt. I agree that the season is going to have to unfold in a way that produces the 9-9 Big Ten record for Indiana to make the NCAAT as you submit. Even at that, I’m still thinking a win in the conf. tournament may be needed in order to feel confident about getting in. One loss and out in the Big10T would mean IU finishes with a 19-13 record (by my count) and that’s a bubble that can certainly burst.

    Other random thoughts :

    CTC’s substitution of Vonleh with Etherington (if I’m not mistaken) near the end was immediately booed heartily by the crowd, and look how the Badgers went at that matchup and took advantage of it. CTC didn’t stay with it, and wisely (I use the word “wisely” loosely here) put Vonleh back in. Its’ moves like that where I seriously question what is in his head sometimes.

    In closing, I would be remiss not to mention something about the court storming.

    **sarcasm alert** 😉

    Look, I recognize Hoosier students and fans are trying really hard to perfect their court storming technique. It’s hard, taxing, and takes a lot of practice and I hope they get many more chances to work out all the kinks associated with it. I think the timing of the storming looked a little awry when a few rushed and the rest didn’t (apparently confused by event services’ instructions to wait until Badger players left the floor).

    I respectfully wish to point out everyone needs to get in sync and go re-watch how it was done against UK. Hoosier fans really looked sharp that day and it’s looking like they’re starting to slip. Gotta go back to the dorms and watch that tape to fine tune things. Pass the word along !

    1. kentsterling Post author

      This wasn’t so much a rushing of the court as much as a contrived effort to get on Sportscenter, so it bothered me. Everyone thinks rushing the floor is a good time until Yogi Ferrell rolls his ankle because he landed on the foot of a sophomore from Noblesville.

      There are a couple of roads to the tournament, but unless the Hoosiers are the #5 or #6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament matched up against the #11 or #12 seed, I am not an optimist. For whatever reason, the Hoosiers have had a tough time playing well in Indianapolis and Chicago.

      Your sarcasm is welcome here anytime. Good stuff.

  3. Mike Williams

    I don’t understand that crazy substitution either I see Per a vomiting along.Play him more. Too bad Fischer is gone


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