BLOOMINGTON — Although most people wouldn’t expect North Dakota State of the Summit League to pose a serious challenge to No. 1-ranked Indiana tonight at Assembly Hall, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean does expect something from his team.
“It’s one thing to win,” Crean said. “It’s a whole another thing to improve while you are winning.”
Crean said his team did just that Friday in the season opener against Bryant, an 87-57 IU victory.
There were no huge surprises in the opener as Bryant didn’t have the manpower to slow down Indiana 7-foot center Cody Zeller, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Crean was serious about working his star players hard, as all five starters played 21 minutes or more. Forward Christian Watford played the most, 29 minutes, on his way to a 15-point, 15-rebound night. His 15 rebounds were a career high.
Watford did say the Hoosiers could have done a better job rebounding.
“We have to stress getting to the boards,” he said.
“We gave up too many offensive rebounds.”
Tonight’s game, which starts at 7 p.m., is an opening-round game of the Progressive Legends Classic. Indiana, No. 13 UCLA, Georgetown and Georgia serve as regional hosts for the tournament. Indiana plays its second-round game Thursday at home against Sam Houston State before the tournament shifts to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Indiana will face Georgia on Nov. 19 in that round, with the championship matches the next day.
Tonight against the Bison, the Hoosiers will face a team that returns four starters from a 17-14 campaign, 9-9 in the Summit League. South Dakota State has had nine NCAA Tournament appearances throughout the years, with its last in 2008-09.
The Bison, who have no player taller than 6-foot-9 on the roster, opened their season Friday with a 93-47 win over Valley City State. Guard Mike Felt scored 23 points for the Bison with six 3-pointers.
South Dakota State is coached by Saul Phillips, who is in his fifth season.