Upon Further Review: Cornell

Tom Pritchard

The Hoosiers turned in their most impressive outing of the year Sunday, topping defending Ivy League champion Cornell by 15 at Assembly Hall. HoosierNation.com breaks down the win, including what we found most impressive, surprising and concerning about the game. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Tom Pritchard. On paper, it appeared Cornell's 7-foot center Jeff Foote would pose a serious problem for Pritchard. Foote entered the game averaging 4.0 blocks/game and Pritchard was giving up a couple of inches to him. But by the time the dust had settled Pritchard was a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor and had scored a career-high 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks.

How did Pritchard do it? While the Hoosiers' freshman couldn't necessarily shoot over Foote, he was able to use his size to out-muscle his slender foe and get to point blank range for either layups or to get to the free-throw line, where he was 9-of-13. He also showed off his rapidly growing array of post moves to create scoring opportunities against the Cornell center. Pritchard went to work early, scoring seven points in the game's opening 4 ½ minutes to enable the Hoosiers to jump to a quick 11-4 lead.

Pritchard will have his share of rough nights during his freshman campaign, but the level of improvement he's shown off in the last month and a half has been remarkable. He's scored in double figures in all but one of IU's games this season, and he's led the team in scoring in all but two games. He played a team-high 34 minutes Sunday and looks like a player who will continue to blossom throughout the course of the season and his career.

Biggest Surprise… Indiana beat an NCAA Tournament-quality team by 15 points. While Cornell wasn't a "name" opponent, this victory was an impressive one considering IU's foe is coming off a 22-6 record a year ago, a perfect 14-0 mark in the Ivy League and played in the NCAA Tournament. While a couple of All-Ivy League picks from a season ago are currently out with injuries, Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote and Geoff Reeves are still all proven commodities. Indiana now has a 15-point win against a team that is the Ivy League favorite on its resume – the sort of quality win that few expected this Indiana team to manage this season.

This victory was particularly important considering the challenges that await on the IU schedule. Three of IU's next four games are away from home and against quality opponents (at Wake Forest, vs. Gonzaga, at Kentucky) while the fourth will be against a TCU team that won't be a pushover, either. Sunday's win gives Indiana a very realistic shot at being above .500 when conference play opens in January.

What I Found Most Impressive… Nick Williams was aggressive offensively. Williams got the Hoosiers off to a very good start by being as aggressive as he's been all season on the offensive end. Williams scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, helping the Hoosiers open a double-digit lead early before settling for a six-point edge at halftime.

Williams did have five of IU's 20 turnovers, but he also occasionally erased those mistakes with his play on the other end of the floor. That happened late in the second half, when IU put the game away for good. After assisting on a Daniel Moore jumper that put IU up 57-48 with 4:46 remaining, Williams turned the ball over on IU's next trip. But he made up for that mistake by racing back up the floor and blocking Geoff Reeves' breakaway layup attempt. That led to a fastbreak Malik Story 3-pointer on the other end that put IU up 12 with less than four minutes remaining and put the game away for all intents and purposes.

What I Found Most Concerning… The injury to Verdell Jones III. IU officials announced Sunday night that Jones had returned from the hospital after undergoing a series of tests and that there is no evidence that he's suffered any serious injuries. But it was still a scary moment when Jones was blindsided by a backcourt screen by Foote, dropped to the court, and then appeared to be out cold for some period of time.

With Jones apparently out of the woods as far as having a serious injury, IU Coach Tom Crean was using the incident as a teaching point when it comes to better on-the-court communication. Crean said there was absolutely nothing dirty about Foote's screen, instead pointing out that it was the sort of play where Jones needed a teammate to alert him to the screen.

Turning Point: Cornell had cut IU's lead to four, 49-45, with 8:27 remaining, but IU went on a 6-0 run following a 30-second timeout to reclaim a comfortable 10-point lead. Out of the timeout Devan Dumes hit a mid-range jumper to extend the lead to six, and after Cornell's Brian Kreefer missed a wide open layup IU extended its lead courtesy its work on the offensive glass. Following a missed 3-pointer by Dumes Pritchard corralled the rebound and put it back in while being fouled. Pritchard rebounded his own miss, and after a miss by Malik Story Kyle Taber tipped it in to give IU a 55-45 lead with 6:38 remaining. Cornell would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Quotable: "I was being tentative the first couple of games and (Coach) told me to be assertive with the ball and play basketball. That's what I did." – Nick Williams

"I'm real comfortable. They were playing behind me. I was looking for guys and it helped me to create for myself." – Tom Pritchard

"I played the best defense I could on (Wittman) and he still hit some big shots…Devan played him tough, the people that came in after us played him tough, he just hit some great shots. That's what great players do. W know we have to play another great player in (Jeff) Teague and we have to give it our all." – IU Coach Tom Crean

"I hadn't been here since I was younger going to basketball camp here when Coach Knight was still here. So it was my first time back for me in a while." – Cornell's Ryan Wittman

"I've been impressed with (Pritchard) throughout his freshman year. He knows how to play, he's a tough kid. As he gets more experience and gets in even better condition I think he's going to be a very good player in the Big Ten." – Cornell Coach Steve Donahue

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