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January 17, 2013

IU bench has seen its contribution dwindle

BLOOMINGTON — The numbers are not what might have been expected from Indiana’s bench.

In the Hoosiers’ first four Big Ten games, the bench’s offensive production has dwindled, to the point where the reserves chipped in just five points total in the last two games.

The stat line for Will Sheehey, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell in Saturday’s win over Minnesota and Tuesday’s loss to Wisconsin: 1 of 16 from the field, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers; 3 of 6 on free throws; 14 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 82 minutes.

Entering the season, one of the anticipated challenges facing Indiana coach Tom Crean was how to spread the playing time for a roster that was adding four touted freshmen to a team returning its top five scorers and several other key players.

Circumstances have forced Crean’s hand, however.

The nine-game suspensions for freshmen Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin stunted their development time. Mosquera-Perea has at least played in every game since being reinstated, but Jurkin has played just seven minutes in three games.

Injuries have also hampered contributions from subs Derek Elston, Maurice Creek and Austin Etherington.

Elston has played just four games in the last seven after missing the first 10 games of the season following knee surgery.

Creek played the first 10 games, making a successful return from an Achilles heel rupture that sidelined him all of last season. But he’s sat out the last seven due to a foot injury, his fourth major injury in his time at IU.

And Etherington was lost for the season after breaking his patella against Central Connecticut on Dec. 8.

Comparing the contributions from Indiana’s bench this season through the same stretch of conference games last season shows that, the struggles of the past two games aside, the Hoosiers are getting close to the same numbers from their reserves.

Indiana’s bench through the first four Big Ten games this season has combined to shoot 11-of-41 (26.8 percent) from the field, 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) on 3-pointers, and 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) at the free-throw line, for 39 points. The subs have grabbed 30 rebounds, with 11 assists, six steals and two blocked shots in 190 minutes.

The Hoosiers’ bench through the first four Big Ten games last season shot 19 of 36 (52.8 percent) from the field, 11 of 16 (68.8 percent) on 3-pointers, and 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) at the free-throw line, for 57 points. Those numbers include Matt Roth’s big game against Penn State when he scored 22 points while hitting 5 of 6 3-pointers and 7 of 7 from the line. The subs grabbed 25 rebounds, with three assists, two steals and three blocked shots in 193 minutes.

Bottom line: Indiana, which started Big Ten play 3-1 last season, is 3-1 again this season.

And Crean’s not concerned about the offensive production so much as the energy the bench should be providing.

“I’m not as concerned about the lack of offense from the bench. I’m concerned about the lack of creating pace of the game, with deflections, defense. We need guys to come in and make plays,” Crean said. “We’ve got to have more talk, and more energy, from Remy, and Will’s got to get more involved.

“Will’s an active, engaged player; Will’s the last guy we need, when the shot’s not going for him, to not be in the place he needs to be defensively.”

Last season’s Hoosiers, after that 3-1 conference start, lost their next three. These Hoosiers should avoid that kind of slump with games at Northwestern (1-3 in the Big Ten) and home against Penn State (0-4) up next.


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