Hoosiers Frontcourt Steps Up Big in Win against Minnesota
Playing against an NBA sized front line Wednesday night, Tom Pritchard took his game to the next level.
Behind a 12-point and seven rebound effort from Pritchard, IU recorded its second straight win over a ranked team knocking off No. 18 Minnesota 60-57.
Without leading scorer Christian Watford, coach Tom Crean knew he was going to need added production from a normally quiet frontcourt.
“Players have to step up when others go down,” Crean said. “We are giving up size but that is just the way it is right now. It just means that we have to fight that much more fierce when the shots go up.”
Gophers coach Tubby Smith sent four starters out on the court that stood 6’7” starters on the floor compared to only Pritchard and Derek Elston for the Hoosiers.
Elston chipped in eight points and six rebounds and the Tipton, Ind. native knew that it was time for the ‘next man up’ without Maurice Creek and Watford.
“Coach Crean said it was time for everybody to step up, it doesn’t matter,” Elston said. “Whenever you get into the game, go in with some confidence, and I think that is what everybody did today.”
Pritchard was 5-5 from the field and the 20 percent free throw shooter even made both of his foul shots.
“Coach told me to be aggressive and dunk everything so that is something that I have to do,” Pritchard said.
In order for IU to continue to take the steps in the rebuilding process frontcourt production is going to be a necessity.
Going up against a pair of seven footers and an NBA ready forward in Trevor Mbakwe, Elston and Pritchard answered the call on Wednesday night.
“We see that in practice,” Crean said. “He (Pritchard) is playing major minutes and has got a lot of responsibilities but he took a mindset that he was going to try and dunk everything and he darn near did.”
For the majority of the season, the IU frontcourt has been non-existent and many times has forced Crean into four-guard lineups.
But that was no the case Wednesday night as Pritchard showed flashes of his 10-point a game average during his freshman season from the opening tip.
At the first media timeout, the junior forward had already doubled his season average in points and him and Elston had all four of IU’s baskets.
The highlight of the night and a lock for SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays was a one handed dunk by Pritchard over Ralph Sampson III. Despite the frigid temperatures outside Assembly Hall, the dunk by Pritchard ignited the crowd of 16,618.
Elston said that the team sees that side of Pritchard in practice and it was only a matter of time before it transferred over to the games.
“If we get that out of Tommy every game who knows what could happen,” Elston said. “He knew he had to step up today and I think we all did.”
Five-star forwards Cody Zeller and Hanner Perea are still a year and two years away from being on the Bloomington campus but those two names were put near the back of IU fans minds on Wednesday night.
“We can play with anyone,” Pritchard said. “With the proper energy and execution and all five of us doing the same thing on the court we are a pretty good basketball team.”
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