Win Over Michigan an Important Step for Hoosiers

Zachary OstermanCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 08:  Devan Dumes #33 of the Indiana Hoosiers dribbles the ball against the Pitt Panthers during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

These are no longer last year's Indiana Hoosiers.

Without Maurice Creek and facing a team ranked in the top 20 in the preseason, Indiana got the kind of complete performance Tom Crean has been lusting after for more than a year. 

All the positive signs were there.

Indiana forced more turnovers than it committed, had more assists than giveaways, and won won the rebounding battle. Devan Dumes, Jordan Hulls, and others stepped up their offensive production to fill the massive void left by Creek's season-ending knee injury.

Defensively, the Hoosiers forced three-point happy Michigan to shoot just 32.1 percent from behind the arc. Also, with father Doc in attendance, Jeremiah Rivers pestered, flustered, and even neutralized Manny Harris, who finished seven points under his Big Ten-leading season average and spent much of the game in foul trouble.

And when the game hung in limbo at the end, the Hoosiers—and Hulls specifically—answered the bell, knocking in several clutch free throws to seal the game away.

Tom Crean might want to lose the tie for the rest of the Big Ten schedule.

All (bad) humor aside, the impact of the Hoosiers' win over Michigan on Thursday afternoon could not be measured on stat sheets alone, even if the Wolverines were victims of unduly high expectations to begin the season.

Last year, when it seemed like no one knew quite what to expect, Indiana became surprisingly predictable. Home games in Big Ten play were often close, hotly-contested, and tight to the end. But the Hoosiers always found a way—or several ways—to lose.

It took the Hoosiers a month and nine tries to get their first Big Ten win, which was also, consequently, their sixth and final win of the season.

Thursday afternoon, Tom Crean's crew not only matched last season's conference win total, but passed their previous overall mark, and for the first time in Crean's short tenure, Indiana has winning records both in-conference and overall at the same time.

This doesn't mean they're going to keep doing it at will. There will still be blowouts, there will still be setbacks, but Thursday told us more about Michigan being overrated than it did Indiana being underrated.

But you can't discount the fact that, one year ago, Indiana likely would have lost this game. The roster is more talented, the team more determined, their composure in late games more noticeable, and their ability to close out games suddenly apparent.

The Hoosiers are figuring out how to win. That's a lesson you only learn one way.