(Photo Credit: UCA Sports)

The Hoosiers continue their impressive start with another addition to their win column after the Crossroads Classic on Saturday. Now, the Hoosiers look to fix up some loose ends against the University of Central Arkansas Bears before a long, daunting stretch of Big Ten conference play.

A record of 9-2 has not come easy for the Hoosiers who seem to have a way of coming from behind to secure their victories as of late. J-Mo made the point that the Crossroads Classic is going to be renamed to the “Morgan Classic” with a repeat (and improvement) from his record breaking year last year. Who knows, maybe the Pacers should consider drafting him just for this reason? And in typical Hoosier fashion, Butler led for nearly the first 37 minutes of the game, but Indiana’s athleticism took over in the final stretch and capped off by an incredible shot by Phinisee.

Indiana did not start off playing well against Butler. They returned to their poor, uncoordinated, butter-finger form with 6 turnovers in 8 minutes and were trailing by nearly 10 after that stretch. They calmed down and grabbed control of the game slowly as the clock ticked away. Their 15 total turnovers is not anything to be proud of, but 9 in the final 32 minutes is much better than their start. We will always have room to improve, but hopefully with time we can settle down and play with more confidence especially at the start.

The Hoosiers now travel back down IN-37 to host the Bears of University of Central Arkansas. This is one of the last two non-conference games for the season. It’ll serve as a good stretch to try out some new rotations and experiment in a safer environment prior to conference play.

The Bears are 4-5 and half of their wins come against non Division 1 programs, and the other half against University of Arkansas – Little Rock. They have struggled against other Division 1 programs, losing by an average of more than 19 points. They are currently ranked at 272nd on Kenpom, while Indiana is at 24th.

Meet the Bears

Departing Players

  • Jordan Howard – 5’11” / 180 lbs / Guard / Senior – Chandler, AZ. The standout of the 2017-2018 team who led the team with 25+ ppg. Went undrafted last year, but signed with the Texas Legends who is the Mavericks’ minor league affiliate.
  • Ethan Lee – 6’6” / 175 lbs / Forward / Senior – Camden, AR. One of the frequent starters for the Bears over the last 4 years. Graduated last year and one of the first players for Coach Pennell’s team.
  • Mathieu Kamba – 6’5” / 210 lbs / Guard / Senior – Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Currently playing for Araberri Basketball Club in Spain
  • Otas Iyekekpolor – 6’8” / 175 lbs / Forward / Junior – Edmonton, Canada. Transferred to the Fort Lewis Skyhawks this year.

Projected Starters

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  • Tanner Schmit – 6’8” / 220 lbs / Forward / Senior – Buffalo, NY. Brings in another 9.2 ppg for the Bears. One of the few senior members for the squad despite only being a consistent starter his sophomore season.
  • Hayden Koval – 7’0” / 220 lbs / Center / Sophomore – Prosper, TX. Consistent starter for the Bears leading the team with nearly 6 rebounds a game.
  • DeAndre Jones – 5’11” / 160 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Boise, ID. The team’s leading scorer totaling 14.6 ppg and has started all 9 games this season.
  • Khaleem Bennett – 6’4” / 200 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The only freshman starter for the team. Has tacked on another 8 ppg for the Bears. Recruited as being the 5th best player from Kansas and 380th overall, made an impact early in this season, but has struggled more since then for his team.
  • Thatch Unruh – 6’5” / 190 lbs / Guard / Senior – Branson, MO. One of the two seniors and part of Pennell’s first recruiting class as coach.

The Rotation

  • SK Shittu – 6’7” / 210 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Rogers, AR. Has been battling a heart condition that required him to have a defibrillator placed. Playing this season well and adding another 4.3 ppg for the Bears.
  • Eddy Kayouloud – 6’7” / 220 lbs / Forward / Freshman – Paris, France. The European phenom for the Bears who adds another 13.6 ppg. Has started nearly half the games for his team, so don’t be surprised if he ends up starting again.
  • Jared Chatham – 6’8” / 185 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Houston, TX. Has been seeing more minutes his second year and adding another 3.4 for the team.
  • Aaron Weidenaar – 6’7” / 205 lbs / Forward / Junior – Bozeman, Mont. Has not been a consistent contributor for the team with his best season being his freshman year and adding 2.5 ppg and 1 rebound per game.
  • Matthew Mondesir – 6’5” / 210 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Los Angeles, CA. Has started several games this season for the Bears. Not seeing much production from his game has led him to being a bench player.
  • Jordan Grant – 6’1” / 210 lbs / Forward / Junior – Harrison, AR. Has seen the court in maybe a third to half the games and just for a few minutes each of those games.

Expectations for University of Central Arkansas

The Bears have been under the helm of coach Russ Pennell for the last 5 years. He has been battling uphill the last 5 years and improving his team yearly. Last year was his first winning season bringing the team to a 18-17 record and a quarterfinal appearance in the CBI which was their first winning season as a Division 1 team. They have yet to make the NCAA Tournament, but have had several solid performances against big name schools last year including a nearly 30 point win at California and pushing UCLA to overtime when they were ranked 23rd. Other than these, the Bears have not been able to put together much of a consistent outing.

This season, Central Arkansas has been listed as finishing 8th in the Southland Conference based on the conference preseason poll from the coaches and sports directors for each school with Stephen F. Austin being the favorite for the conference. They will likely not win the regular season title as they lack many big playmakers, but they are used to playing bigger name schools on the road so have the ability to put up a fight against the Hoosiers.

It is difficult to really dissect the play of the Bears as they have not been in the national spotlight like several of the Hoosier’s last opponents. They are currently in the middle of a tough 5 game road trip against schools like Louisville, U. New Mexico, IU and Oklahoma State and it has been rough thus far with only a victory against U. Arkansas Little Rock. They will likely rely on the deep ball as they rank 88th on 3P% and have two sharp shooters from beyond the arc, Deandre Jones and Thatch Unruh. Forcing the Bears to make poor shots from beyond the arc will likely put the Hoosiers in a good position to win comfortably as their athleticism and strength will be too much for the Bears in the paint.

During this rough stretch, Deandre Jones has continued to lead their team. The sophomore has started 28 games thus far for the Bears and has improved greatly over the off-season with an average of nearly 15 points per game now. Eddy Kayouloud and Hayden Koval each add on an additional 10+ points per game as well. They do not have any players that are viewed as being “All-Conference” First or Second Teams and rely more on the team as a whole than any superstar. Thus, they have been frequently changing their roster up with only 3 players starting all games and an additional 6 having started at least a game. On Sunday against New Mexico, their bench struggled and it was their downfall – being outscored 60-22 compared to the Lobos.

University of Central Arkansas currently sits at 4-6. They have won the games that they stood a chance in and lost those they were outmatched. Indiana may not have their hands full this week, but for a change may be able to experiment and look for ways to push themselves early and fast rather than continually playing catch-up and leaving their fans with chest pain by the end of the first half. A lack of depth and superstar power make the Bears a team that should not put much of a fight against the Hoosiers.

Fun fact: Scottie Pippen’s alma mater is U. Central Arkansas. He is by far their most noteworthy player from the program and is proud of his heritage.

Injury Watch

Race Thompson is still out with a concussion but attended practice and appears to be inching closer to a return. Although he is still in concussion protocol, he recently did two cardio workouts and some weightlifting.

There is still no timetable for a return for Jerome Hunter, who is still recovering from surgery to his leg.

Central Arkansas does not have any injuries of note.

What to Watch for:

  1. End to end, front to back, whistle to whistle. While Indiana has strung together a number of resume building wins, there is still opportunity to improve. Specifically to open the games. Yes, it’s true that a win is a win, but the Hoosiers have yet to put together 35+ minutes of solid play. Indiana opened 0-9 against Penn State, 6-14 against Louisville, and 4-12 against Butler. Indiana’s play against Central Arkansas can be a platform for Archie to show a solid 40 minutes of basketball.
  2. Dr. Archie Miller? With two teams that are currently ranked 275 or lower on Kenpom, the coaching staff has an opportunity to possibly experiment and introduce concepts or players before the break. Whether it be new actions on offense, testing the focus of the team to handle the ball, or even rotating in some additional faces such as Clifton Moore or Damezi Anderson, the coaching staff has some flexibility in handling the next pair of games at home.
  3. Piling on the confidence. After the last four wins by one possession in each, the team has the right to feel a bit of confidence returning back to Bloomington. After wrapping up the non-conference, Indiana is going into the thick of Big Ten play where every night will be a difficult match up. To be competitive and continue the moment, Indiana needs all hands on deck. Specifically, can these next two games build the confidence in players like Justin Smith, Evan Fitzner, or Al Durham? Zach McRoberts has played well offensively early on, but has since disappeared. This could serve as a catalyst for these guys to be game-ready mentally.
  4. Lockdown Rob back again on another assignment. Indiana will look towards their freshman point guard to again lockdown another star opponent in DeAndre Jones, who is the leading scorer for the Bears with 14 points per game. Rob has done a great job against opposing point guards – his most impressive defensive performance being his ability to control Markus Howard of Marquette.
  5. The end of a strange streak. Indiana has not won 4 consecutive games by a single possession since the 1930s. Sorry Hoosier fans, while this is a tremendous feat accomplished, do not expect this streak to continue. In fact if that streak does get extended, we will probably be in some trouble. 

How to Watch

DateWednesday, December 19th
Time7:00 PM EST
RadioHoosiersTV Audio

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